Cheol Joon Baek
As right-wing pols go, deputy Mayor Doug Holyday is not as partisan as some who make up Rob Ford's inner circle jerks.
If you watch Holyday closely enough at council meetings, you might catch a smile wrinkling his lips on those occasions when he stands in the chamber to do nothing more than toe the party line - which is often these days.
What to make, then, of the political dynamite he's playing with - namely, his idea of redrawing electoral boundaries to more accurately reflect the population in each ward? Sounds too democratic to be true.
Holyday says he's pitching the plan in the interest of "fairness."
It's tempting to view his initiative as a political boon for the downtown, where condo growth has upped the numbers living in the core. Some on the left certainly have. They were under the impression - mistaken, it turns out - that Holyday's realignment would mean a more equitable distribution of seats, the current 44 wards either realigned or a few more added to take into account population growth.
Maybe someone in the mayor's office got to the deputy mayor.
Cuz now he's talking, to me at least, about going along with the mayor's plan to halve the number of council seats from the current 44 to 22. Where the mayor and his deputy diverge is on Holyday's preference for an elected board of control - eight members chosen citywide, two for each of the four districts - to replace the executive committee currently handpicked by the mayor. That comes as news to Adam Vaughan, who has been commiserating with Holyday on the subject of ward boundaries.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Why would Ford's go-to guy on the inner workings of government hatch a plan to weaken the power of the hand that feeds him? The answer is that he's not.
Sorry, lefties, no silver lining here. Check the numbers (see sidebar). Holyday's new ward map, however he decides to draw it, would not shift the balance of power to the left at City Hall, for several reasons.
First, Holyday's only talking about adding one, maybe two wards at most in the core.
More to the point, he's not talking about what Vaughan and others on the left want to see happen: adjusting the electoral boundaries based on the number of households and businesses in each ward, rather than the population. Or using the number of voters in each ward, or a combination of all those numbers, to arrive at a more equitable distribution of seats on council. That formula would definitely mean adding more seats than Holyday is envisioning downtown - as many as three, maybe more, depending on what averages are used.
Even Holyday's rep-by-pop pitch, at least the one he was talking about before he changed his mind, could, in fact, further consolidate the mayor's power. The downtown core isn't the only area that would gain more wards. Surprise! Wards in the burbs have higher populations than their counterparts in the core.
Based on Holyday's population formula, wards in inner burbs of North York and others in Scarborough and south Etobicoke currently held by Ford allies would be divvied up to mean more potential seats for the right on council.
The mayor, of course, has his own ideas about ward redistribution. His goal is to cut the number of wards in half. Period.
Under that scenario, Ford would hold even more of the balance of power - 11 of 22 wards solidly behind the mayor, six too close to call and five (maybe four seats) for progressives, according to council's current makeup.
The elected board of control Holyday's contemplating might act as a check on the mayor's power. But the mayor still has political plums at his disposal - various committee chairmanships and board appointments, for example, that he can use to influence an elected board.
Certainly, boards of control that existed pre-amalgamation didn't prevent mayors of the old cities from pushing their agendas through council.
Beyond the numbers, the trickier part when it comes to redrawing Toronto's wards is keeping BIAs and neighbourhood associations - not to mention established communities - intact. Those goals will be harder to achieve under either Ford's or Holyday's plan.
If we learned anything from the last time our boundaries were redrawn, during amalgamation, it's that reducing the number of councillors leaves voters feeling more alienated from City Hall.