Toronto mayor asks Ontario premier to ‘hit the pause button’ on cutting council seats

Toronto Mayor John Tory has written a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford asking him to “hit the pause button” on cutting the number of city council seats from 47 to 25 and allow a referendum to be held before proceeding with the legislation.

“I have made my own position clear – it is unacceptable and unfair to change the rules in the middle of an election,” Tory said in the letter sent Thursday evening.

“The proposed legislation is contrary to common sense in terms of both the practicality of altering a live election process and in terms of our ongoing provincial-municipal relationship.”

The provincial government tabled legislation last month that would see the number of city council seats reduced by nearly half in the October municipal election.

“Something as fundamentally important as an election – a primary mechanism of civic democracy – should not be changed without public input and in the absence of a clear process or robust understanding of public impacts and costs,” Tory said.

Referendum popular with the people, Tory says

Tory told reporters during a public appearance at the TTC’s Leslie Barns facility Friday morning that the lack of public consultation on the council reduction is troubling.

“The referendum idea, I can tell you, goes down very well with the people and it was just one mechanism that I knew existed that we could put forward for their consideration, that would be in some respects cleaner and I think better than a court action, which is never preferable,” he said.

“But now we’ll receive our legal advice with respect to the court action as well, and I think it still rests with the government to decide that they are going to postpone the implementation of this pending some public consultation which may give them better ideas.”

City councillors voted last week to formally oppose the legislation and to further ask the city solicitor to examine the constitutionality of the bill.

The Progressive Conservative government said the reduction in council seats would save the city $25.5 million over four years.

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