here's been more talk lately about cutting the number of Toronto councillors by half. In fact, the possibility of that happening someday was on the agenda at last week's city council meeting when a staff report titled Council Governance Review came up for "discussion." It was Councillor Doug Holyday, of course, who used the debate to start pushing the 22-councillors-plus-a-mayor model of municipal government that his Tory pals up at Queen's Park would love to see in place at City Hall. But this time the thugs who effectively whacked 13 Toronto politicians before the last civic election three years ago say they will only legislate a smaller council if the intended targets actually ask them to do it. And Holyday had about as much chance of getting his colleagues to warm up to that idea as Melvin Douglas Lastman has of receiving a humanitarian award from the Mombassa chamber of commerce.
In the end, council decided to put off making any meaningful recommendations on the governance issue. They'll be left for the new council elected November 10 to ponder. And don't expect it to make any serious attempt at reform either. Putting oneself out of a well-paid political job with lots of nice side benefits is never going to be a priority at 100 Queen West. The province, not wanting to upset Toronto voters with a provincial election pending, isn't pressing this button for the moment. And none of the leading candidates for mayor have been making a big deal about it either.
Oh, sure, former budget chief Tom Jakobek has promised to slash 22 councillors' positions from the city payroll if he becomes chief magistrate. But of course, he doesn't have a chance in hell of winning.
It's one thing to say the city would be run a whole lot better if there were a mayor and 22 councillors instead of 44. But it's something else again to come up with 22 people capable of effectively doing the jobs they're supposedly elected to do. The way Toronto's luck has been going lately, the enfranchised citizenry would probably end up electing the biggest dolts around.
With this terrifying hypothesis on my mind, I turned to a few of my colleagues in the City Hall press gallery to ask if they could think of 22 incumbents who might be worthy of inclusion on what would have to be considered an all-star Toronto council. And do you know what? Everybody complained that it would be virtually impossible to come up with enough people with the right combination of smarts, dedication and drive.
It's worth noting that if Toronto council were reduced to 22 members, based on the existing federal/provincial riding boundaries (which each yield two municipal wards), council's best achievers would have absolutely no chance of getting re-elected. Joe Mihevc would be up against Michael Walker in St. Paul's. Pam McConnell would have to duke it out with Kyle Rae in Toronto Centre-Rosedale. Ditto for Olivia Chow and Joe Pantalone in Trinity-Spadina and the Joanne Flint-Jane Pitfield face-off in Don Valley West. It's more of the same in the fantasy world where both Lorenzo Berardinetti and Brad Duguid decide to give provincial politics a miss.
This says several things about the current political environment hereabouts. First, residents of Trinity-Spadina, Don Valley West and such can boast a high concentration of political talent. And, obviously, the reverse is true of many other areas around town.
But more importantly, it's easy to see the folly of further cutting the size of Toronto city council. All it would do is decimate the political gene pool from which civic leadership is supposed to emerge.
Things are bad enough now. We can ill afford to make them worse.