City Hall is in for a major-league shakeup. And we're not talking about what's going to happen once Torontonians have had a chance to visit the municipal polls in November.In fact, the election of a new mayor and, hopefully, a few new councillors will be of little or no consequence unless significant changes are also made to the way the civic bureaucracy works.
That task will ultimately fall to the 45 politicians who survive the upcoming battle of the ballot box. But the campaign for administrative reform is already well underway, and there's no question in many minds that heads are going to roll. "There's a real sickness here at City Hall and it has to be cleaned up," says councillor Michael Walker. "We're going to have to clean house at the top and start over with a new administration."
Such statements are commonplace at 100 Queen West these days. The seat of local government is reeling from the testimony given so far at the judicial probe of the $102-million MFP computer leasing scandal. And with provincial Integrity Commissioner Coulter Osborne now embarking on an investigation of the secretive process that selected a local consortium with strong links to the mayor's office to redevelop Union Station, talk is rampant of wholesale changes in the offices of the CAO and commissioners.
"I think maybe it's time to sweep the floor clean," says councillor Howard Moscoe.
There's no maybe about it as far as Walker is concerned. "The best face you can put on it is that everything is out of control," he says of the senior bureaucracy. "People are taking upon themselves authority that they don't have. There's been a breakdown in accountability, and if we don't have that foundation of good government being led by a professional bureaucracy that we all can trust to be scrupulous and fair, then the public's trust is lost."
Walker says that during Lastman's five-plus years in the mayor's office, the administration has allowed itself to become highly politicized. Instead of giving council professional advice based on the best information available, Walker argues, senior bureaucrats have tailored their reports and recommendations to fit the mayor's agenda and those of his supporters inside and outside City Hall.
"It's got to stop," the councillor insists. "We have to re-establish a really professional civil service with the strength to push politicians away. And we need a mayor who understands those principles, someone who's prepared to be a real leader and reaffirm the separation of the political leadership from the bureaucratic leadership, and honour it."
Councillor Paul Sutherland agrees that radical changes must be made. He's hopeful that an ad hoc committee of councillors and senior bureaucrats now discussing possible governance reforms might make some recommendations before this council term ends.
Sutherland -- who helped shape the existing bureaucracy as a member of the provincially appointed transition team that oversaw the 1997 merger of the former Metro Toronto's six member municipalities -- says in replacing this failed structure with a new model, every top position in the current administration would be automatically eliminated. "Presumably, the people who are there now would be able to apply for those new positions," he surmises. "Some might get them, some might not."
Shirley Hoy, who took over as CAO when Michael Garrett vacated the post two years ago, appears to be particularly vulnerable. She's increasingly seen as a willing facilitator of the mayor's pet projects, and that perception has cost her considerable support among councillors.
"Shirley has crossed the line," says one politician among a number who privately suggest the new mayor should hand the CAO a pink slip immediately following his or her swearing in. But in spite of mounting criticism, Hoy still has her backers. "She's almost above reproach as far as I'm concerned," says councillor Doug Holyday, chair of council's administration committee.
It remains to be seen whether Paula Dill, the commissioner of urban development, and Joan Anderton, the commissioner of corporate services, will receive such endorsements.
Dill is the transplanted North Yorker who figured prominently in the secret backroom machinations over the Union Station deal. It was the urban development commissioner who jotted down a couple of zeros on the scorecard of the doomed U.S. firm that was bidding against homegrown business magnate Larry Tanenbaum and his associates from Union Pearson Group.
Anderton was another participant in the Union Station process, which has featured the unfortunate shredding of some key documents and the alleged theft of others from the city's freedom-of-information office. She will also be called as a witness at the MFP inquiry. Although the computer deal went down before Anderton joined the city three years ago, she has come under fire for her handling of the aftermath.
Joe Halstead, the commissioner of economic development, culture and tourism, is another long-time Lastmanite. He hasn't been touched by any major controversy, but his close association with the departing mayor makes him a target. If the new council gets into a serious housecleaning mood, Halstead could be history.
Barry Gutteridge, commissioner of works and emergency services, is the only senior bureaucrat who still holds the job he was hired for when the new city of Toronto came into existence in 1998. That's saying something. But Gutteridge could still lose out in a reorganization exercise. Two of his general managers -- Angelos Bacopoulos, in solid waste management, and Mike Price, from water and wastewater services -- are said to be lusting for promotion. They've both got supporters on the current council.
The only top bureaucrats who seem to be walking around without huge bull's-eyes painted on their backs are Joe Pennachetti and Eric Gam. Pennachetti replaced Liczyk as treasurer and chief financial officer less than two years ago. Gam took over as commissioner of community and neighbourhood services when Hoy moved into the CAO's office.
Apparently, the two veteran civil servants haven't been in their positions long enough to tick off too many people. There's still time, of course.