Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Toronto Election Highlights Failure of Amalgamation

Originally featured at New Geography.

In my pre-election piece on the Toronto election, I discussed the city’s lingering malaise. It developed slowly but its roots can be traced to the 1998 amalgamation that swallowed up five suburban municipalities. This led to a six folds expansion of city boundaries and a tripling the population base. This amalgamation was initiated by the province of Ontario as a cost saving measure and faced major local opposition. Citizens and politicians were concerned that the benefits of the alleged efficiency saving would be outweighed by the negative impact of losing local decision making powers. The recent Toronto municipal election bore out this concern.

In the October 25th election, Torontonians were presented with two dramatically different visions. The first vision was presented by former Liberal Ontario cabinet minister George Smitherman. A self-described progressive, Smitherman appealed mainly to voters in the downtown core of Old Toronto. He stood for issues such as improved bicycle lanes, renewal of the downtown waterfront, and improving social housing conditions. The second version was presented by maverick councilor Rob Ford, who represented a ward in the former City of Etobicoke. Ford’s message was simple: it’s time to stop the “gravy train” at City Hall. While he had elaborate platforms on many issues, cutting waste at City Hall was his ubiquitous message.

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