Province’s commitment to local autonomy outside Toronto ‘highly ironic,’ Mayor Tory says

Mayor John Tory called the province's unilateral cut to the size of city council a "terrible episode last year, which I think was damaging in many respects."

As many Ontario municipalities celebrated the end of a threat of forced amalgamations, Toronto politicians wondered why the Ford government treated their city so differently.

Toronto Councillor Gord Perks said the Ontario government’s about-face Friday on regional reform, after last year unilaterally slashing the size of Toronto council, shows the premier “thinks Torontonians are second-class citizens.

“Premier Ford has clearly said that people in Brampton and Mississauga have the right to decide what kind of government they want and Torontonians do not, and that’s awful.”

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark revealed that, nine months after his government promised major reforms including possible amalgamations to force efficiencies and cost-savings, he was scrapping the regional reform. Instead Ontario’s 444 municipalities will share a total of $143 million in provincial funding to find efficiencies and improve services.

“Throughout this extensive review, the government heard that local communities should decide what is best for them in terms of governance, decision-making and service delivery,” Clark’s ministry said in a news release.

“After careful consideration of the feedback we heard through the course of the review, our government stands firm in its commitment to partnering with municipalities without pursuing a top-down approach.”

Ford’s government triggered a firestorm of criticism when the premier cut Toronto council from a planned 47 councillors, set by council after years of study, to 25, even though the election, and door-knocking by candidates, had started months earlier.

The premier threatened to use the notwithstanding clause to override any charter rights challenge, and remains committed to fighting the City of Toronto in court should the city get leave to take its challenge to the council cut to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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