Here’s the sad and ridiculous reality of municipal government today: cities have no power.
As enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, cities are creatures of the province—subservient to provincial will. As a result, despite being a global centre for business and culture—representing a full ten per cent of the Canadian GDP—Toronto is completely subject to the whims of provincial politicians.
This tends to make life frustrating for Mayor John Tory. On Friday, Tory was so angry at the province he started talking about his short pants.
“It is time that we stop being treated – and I stop being treated – as a little boy going up to Queen’s Park in short pants to say, ‘please, could you help me out with something that I thought was in the City of Toronto Act that I could do?’ and being told, ‘no, I’m terribly sorry, go away and come back some other day,’” he told reporters.
The fired-up Tory was referring to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s surprise decision to halt Toronto’s plan to put tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. It was a betrayal of trust from Wynne—a sudden about-face that threw the mayor’s council-backed plan to pay for infrastructure into disarray.
With one announcement, the provincial government undercut the city’s autonomy.
The worst part? It’s hardly the first time something like this has happened. It happens all the time.
And that’s just one of the province’s greatest hits. There’s also the problem-ridden Presto fare card system, which the TTC and Toronto rejected before it was forced on them. There was the withdrawal of provincial pooling funds, which blew a sudden hole in Toronto’s budget. There is the continued refusal to take responsibility for social housing.
And, of course, there is the very act of amalgamation itself – a political move that was rejected by Toronto voters in a referendum and then brazenly done anyway.
I am not suggesting Toronto and its politicians are blameless victims. They aren’t. But the pattern is impossible to ignore.
This latest broadside from the province should be the breaking point. I am over seeing Toronto mayors put on their short pants and play nice with a provincial government that keeps messing things up.
It’s time to get angry, and it’s time to demand better.
Continued attempts to build this city will always fail if those efforts can be unilaterally erased by another level of government.
The power to shape cities should belong to cities. Accept nothing less.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/torys-toronto-matt-elliott/2017/01/30/kathleen-wynne-road-tolls-canadian-cities-john-tory.html on 2017-01-30T00:00:00.000Z