n Journal of Public Administration - Metropolitan governance in Toronto beyond the amalgamation era : quo vadis?

Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



The then Toronto Metropolitan Council was Canada's largest municipality, and the oldest metropolitan government in North America. It was viewed as the model for metropolitan governance internationally. It was replaced by a new, unified, single municipality on 1 January 1998 consisting of all the former seven municipalities. The new City in 2004 had an operating budget of $6.7b.cdn and was larger than seven of the ten Canadian provinces. It has a total staff complement of approximately 47 000 employees and the population in 2003 was 2,5 million.

The unicity concept was opposed by the local politicians and the citizenry at large. This has to be viewed against a background of general opposition to many policies of the then Ontario Progressive Conservative Government, a neo-conservative Thatcherite style government. The then Mayor and senior staff in 1999 claimed that amalgamation resulted in savings of $150m.cdn. resulting from the reduction of departments, staff, information technology systems, office space, the corporate fleet and the City Service Boards. The presumed savings were doubted at the time. Subsequently undisputed research has shown that amalgamation alone resulted in a shortfall of at least $240m.cdn. The downloading of responsibilities by the provincial government meant the City had to assume significant additional responsibilities and the concommitant costs, notably in the areas of public transit, public housing, health and ambulance services. The Ontario Provincial Government provided a supposed once-off grant of $50m.cdn. and a $200m.cdn. loan to offset these costs.
The Toronto elections held on the 10 November 2003 differed radically from the two previous post amalgamation elections as a number of issues were addressed in the campaign, namely homelessness, rebuilding the transit system; eradicating corruption; financial sustainability and generating new sources of revenue; developing a formal intergovernmental framework for engaging the Provincial and Federal government and decisive action on the development of the waterfront. The main election policy was over the construction of a proposed bridge to link an island, which contained a small but controversial commercial airport. A key challenge for the new Mayor was to re-establish Toronto first as a pre-eminent city in the country and North America and transforming it into a globally competitive city internationally.

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