A year ago, Toronto and its surrounding towns and cities had just weathered a nasty ice storm. You probably remember the prolonged power outages, the cancelled flights and the general chaos. It wasn’t a super-fun time.
For me, though, the most enduring memory from the storm comes from something that happened after the ice melted. On Jan. 17, 2014, mayors and regional chairs from across the GTA met in Mississauga to make a co-ordinated request to the provincial government for relief funds.
I remember looking at a photo from the meeting, of the mayors from the 416 and 905 standing side by side, and thinking two things.
First: Wow, this is not something I’ve seen very often.
And second: Hey, this kind of thing should really happen more often.
Because despite representing a combined population of about six million people and presiding over a fifth of the Canadian GDP, the heads of the GTA municipalities don’t seem to get together nearly enough.
Aside from some regular formal meetings through established groups, it’s been too rare in recent years to hear about mayors teaming up to push for change.
And that’s a shame, because the story playing out across every local burg is exactly the same: Budgets are tight. Municipal governments receive just a sliver of overall tax revenue, but municipal expenses are growing due to rapidly expanding populations and aging infrastructure. There’s a pressing need for the federal government, especially, to take notice.
With a better co-ordinated effort and more timely meetings, the GTA could represent a serious political force that would be hard for the feds and Queen’s Park to ignore.
But for that to happen, the region needs to get better at recognizing what makes us the same instead of what makes us different.
Too often, GTA politics is dominated by petty squabbling. It’s too much 416-versus-905, urban-versus-suburban or general griping about how Toronto thinks it’s the centre of the universe.
With the ice storm aftermath last year, we saw a small but potent example of what can happen when GTA leaders get past that kind of thing and actually work together.
Going into a new year, with all that election wackiness behind us, there’s an opportunity for more of that.
Toronto has probably never had a mayor better suited to building collaboration across the GTA than we’ve got with John Tory. This kind of thing is in his wheelhouse, and I think that a lot of other mayors are game to play ball.
Done right, a sustained regional approach could be a really good thing for issues like transit, poverty reduction and municipal funding shortfalls.
Either way, it shouldn’t take an ice storm to get the GTA to work together.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/urban-compass-matt-elliott/2015/01/04/if-john-tory-could-bring-together-the-416-and-905-so-much-good-could-be-accomplished.html on 2015-01-05T00:00:00.000Z