David Vallance: To big to be a city, we must become Province of Toronto

By David Vallance – 

I’m again a candidate for mayor of Toronto solely for the purpose of raising the proposal of making Toronto the 11th province. For information on how that could be done please see www.provinceoftoronto.ca.

In the 1980s I was very involved with the Annex Residents’ Association. By 1990 it was apparent to me that Toronto was suffering from the support it was providing to senior governments from its property taxes. Economists will generally have different positions on almost everything but there is nearly universal agreement that social costs (housing, income support, subsidized day care) are the responsibility of senior governments. During the 1970s and 1980s there was an unwritten agreement that Toronto would take all the subsidized housing that could be built and the province would provide the money.

By 1990 that was coming apart as Toronto had a disproportionate share of social costs and the 20% share paid from property taxes was loaded onto businesses. This was causing many businesses to leave the city for the 905 where similar properties paid half the tax.

At the same time I heard frequently that Toronto was a “creature of the Province.” One definition of creature is: A person who owes his rise and fortune to another, a servile dependent, an instrument, a tool. I concluded that Toronto would be better off as a city-state. That wasn’t practical then, but when Toronto was amalgamated the idea of making Toronto a province seemed possible.

Then in 1998 the Supreme Court in the Reference Re: Secession of Quebec decision laid down the rules for a part of a country to secede, not necessarily from the rest of the country but from a part of the country.

Since reading that decision I am convinced not only that Toronto should become a province, but that it can.

The benefits of Toronto becoming a province mean that it could do the things that all the “major” candidates for mayor are promising but in reality need provincial support and approval to actually do. One is promising to “decentralize” by giving community councils more power over certain things. That has been promised many times but never seems to get done.

As a province Toronto would be able to deal directly with all the things it must wait for Ontario to do: health, education, major infrastructure, police for major crime and civil law, and whatever else is part of provincial jurisdiction. There would also be a city or preferably, as I see it, several city governments to do the “decentralizing” that is necessary to provide different parts of the city real “local” government. Councilors from south Etobicoke aren’t wasting time debating issues in the Beach.

In an article in the Star by Ian Urquhart on April 11, 2005, the “megacity” as a “big mistake” was admitted by former Mike Harris handler Guy Giorno, the brains behind the Harris regime. Now he’s an operative in the Stephen Harper government. Giorno described amalgamation as both “bad public policy” and “bad politics” in a presentation he made at Ryerson University. It is bad public policy because, far from producing more efficient administrations, it actually drives up costs,” he said.

Giorno was right but all efforts to overcome the higher costs have failed. London, England, a city of over 8 million has 32 “boroughs” or separate cities for local government. Lots of studies show small municipalities—up to 250,000 people—are more efficient than large cities. A provincial constitution would define the separate roles of the cities and the Province of Toronto.

Torontonians seem to be looking for a saviour, not a mayor. We have had a variety of mayors in the last 20 years but each year seems to be a repeat of the previous one. The problem is not the mayor, it’s the systems any mayor works with.

Over the years people tell me they think making Toronto a province is a good idea. When I ask them if they voted for me, they say, “No, I voted for so-and-so because I was afraid someone else would win.” Toronto is wonderful city but operates well below its potential. I say until we make that change to a province we are settling for mediocrity.