Ontario NDP pledges to reverse cut in size of Toronto city council if elected

The Ontario NDP would repeal legislation by the Doug Ford government that slashed the number of council seats in Toronto during the last municipal election, a party candidate said on Sunday.

Kristyn Wong-Tam, a former city councillor who is running for the NDP in Toronto Centre, pledged that the NDP, if elected, would repeal the Better Local Government Act that enabled Ford to cut the size of city council from 47 wards to 25 in 2018. The move overruled municipal interests, she said.

“We were in the middle of 2018 election. Candidates were registered. Doors were being knocked on. And Mr. Ford took office and he cut the size of council in half,” she said.

“We will put those powers back into the hands of municipal city council and we will let city council decide on their ward boundaries and we will certainly respect the voters of Toronto,” she added.

Wong-Tam noted Toronto council challenged the legislation in court all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, the majority of residents did not support the cut according to the polls, and Ford did not signal his intention to cut the size of council when he was running for provincial office in 2018.

In the Ontario legislature, after he was elected, Ford had said: “The people want smaller government.”

Ford had argued that a smaller Toronto council would make its operations more efficient and save money. Critics said the move was undemocratic.

In October 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the government was operating within its legal powers and did not violate the Constitution when it cut the number of wards in Toronto.

CBC Toronto has reached out to the Progressive Conservative Party for comment on the NDP’s position but has not yet heard back.

On Sunday, at an event in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood, Wong-Tam outlined the NDP’s “Toronto platform” and introduced its slate of candidates for the city.

“The people of Toronto deserve a government at Queen’s Park that is committed to working together to build all that this city has to offer and to ensure that every citizen, every resident, has the opportunity to live and prosper as well as being respected and valued,” Wong-Tam said at the event.

Wong-Tam told reporters that the NDP would do the following:

  • Bring back “real” rent control and introduce vacancy control so that tenants pay what the last tenants paid.
  • Create publicly funded mental health care to enable residents to access mental health services with their OHIP cards.
  • Make the TTC more frequent, comfortable, convenient and affordable by restoring 50 per cent provincial funding for municipal transit operations. 
  • Bring Ontario to net-zero by 2050.
  • Create a provincial arts strategy.
  • Work to end chronic homelessness within 10 years.
  • Continue to support small businesses.
  • Reduce class sizes, hire more teachers, fix schools and build more where needed.
  • Boost the minimum wage and provide 10 paid sick days and guaranteed protections for gig workers.
  • Increase Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works current rates by 20 per cent and double the current rates in the second year.

“When Toronto is successful, then I think we can safely say that Ontario will be successful. We will also help drive Ontario’s recovery from COVID-19,” she said.

Wong-Tam said big issues facing Torontonians are the same issues facing residents in other Ontario cities, including Ottawa, Kingston and Hamilton. These issues include the cost of housing, groceries, fuel and transportation. The NDP platform is trying to address those concerns, she said.

“Toronto needs a strong provincial partner who understands us,” she said.

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