"Greater autonomy, more resources, protection from provinces"
Green Party of Canada Becomes First
to Publicly Endorse Charter Cities
The Green Party of Canada has become the first political party to publicly endorse Charter City status for Canadian municipalities. Green party leader Elizabeth May made the announcement at a news conference on July 19 in Toronto.
A Green Party news release says, "the party’s plan for City Charters...will give municipalities greater autonomy, more resources to deliver essential services and protection from the provinces in which they are located".
Those are exactly the three key elements of a new deal for cities proposed by Charter City Toronto.
The group has argued that Toronto in particular, and other willing municipalities, should be given much greater ability to make their own decisions in the municipal sphere without having to seek permission from the province.
It also argues for a new financial deal to ensure that cities have the resources necessary to meet the demands placed on them in the 21st century.
Finally, Charter City Toronto calls for the passage of a constitutional amendment giving Charter Cities enhanced status in Confederation and protection from unilateral and arbitrary provincial interference in cities' affairs.
Tim Grant, the party's Shadow Critic for Municipal Affairs and Housing, told the news conference that if elected, the Green Party will establish an inclusive Council of Canadian Governments, including federal, provincial, Indigenous and municipal governments.
This Council will guarantee a steady flow of funding to municipalities, ensuring that they can provide more than just essential services.
“Municipalities are drastically underfunded,” said Grant. “The system is broken. Currently only 10 per cent of every Canadian tax dollar goes to municipalities. It’s totally inadequate and we’ve reached a tipping point."
“Not only does our urban infrastructure need modernizing to adapt to the climate crisis, but our entire approach to municipal affairs and housing needs to be restructured and revitalised.”
Grant was a member of Charter City Toronto's steering committee until he took a leave of absence earlier this year to run as the Green Party candidate in University-Rosedale riding, currently held by Liberal MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.
The cities agenda announced by the Green Party also includes a "massive project" to maximize the energy efficiency of built infrastructure including urban housing, investment in urban public transit and to address cities' infrastructure deficit.
“Electing more Greens to parliament this fall will ensure that our municipalities and urban infrastructure thrive, and that every Canadian can afford to live where they work,” concluded Ms. May.
WHY A CITY CHARTER?
21st Century Status for a 21st Century City
The Toronto region is home to nearly half of the people in the province.
One in five Canadians.
More people than all but two Canadian provinces.
Toronto’s Community Housing Corporation houses more tenants than Prince Edward Island has people, yet our smallest province has vastly more power and authority over its affairs and its finances than we do, at nearly twenty times the size.
The Toronto region is Ontario’s economic engine. In 2013, it contributed $330 billion to the country's GDP--an economy larger than the six smallest provinces of Canada combined. The city of Toronto proper generated $157 billion of that: 10% of Canada's GDP.
Yet only a fraction of the taxes generated by that wealth comes back to Toronto in government services and investment. Each year, Toronto gives Ontario and Canada some $12 billion more in taxes than it gets back in programs, services and funding.
On any given day, Toronto manages complex realities that most Canadian cities don’t even have to imagine.
We are the primary magnet for immigration in Canada, welcoming and settling a staggering array of people from every country and culture on the planet.
We run a transit system that carries 1.7 million people a day. We spend more than a billion dollars a year on police, fire, emergency and health services to protect millions of citizens in challenging, densely urban circumstances.
Our city councillors mediate more development proposals in a year than many Canadian cities see in a lifetime, while still finding time to help local residents calm traffic on their neighbourhood streets and field complaints about garbage pickup.
We provide public housing, health and welfare services for a large population of the marginal and homeless residents of Toronto, many of whom migrate to the city from the rest of the province and beyond.
These are just some of the activities and challenges and facts that set Toronto apart from the province in which it lies.
We take pride in them all.
Yet all of these things are under constant threat by a chronic shortfall in the resources needed to guarantee their continued success.
Toronto generates great wealth, but never seems to possess the wherewithal necessary to properly look after its own needs or meet its own objectives.
Why is such a rich city so eternally poor?
A city that can't fund its priorities cannot meet its objectives because they must come second to those of whoever is paying the bills. Never mind that that much of the funding from senior governments is paid from taxes raised in the city in the first place.
The city lacks the power, status and resources to carry out its responsibilities. It exists as an infantalized "creature of the province", without autonomy, without access to revenue sources that would nourish the city's ability to function, without the power to make adult decisions and without protection from interference--well-intentioned or not--from senior governments.
We are forced to seek permission from 'senior' politicians for even the most mundane of city tasks -- setting traffic rules on neighbourhood streets, designing our own governing structures, collecting the taxes we need to pay for the services we are required to provide.
Where for a century there was a co-operative partnership between the city and the province, more recently, it has become an antagonistic and confrontational as the province seeks to impose its will on the city against the wishes of the city.
• The imposition of the mega city in the late 90s.
• Refusal of the city's considered decision in 2017 to levy road tolls.
• The unilateral slashing of city council in the middle of an election campaign.
• The upload (theft) of the city's subway system and its authority over local transit. Unilateral imposition of new transit plans without even the appearance of consulting city leaders.
• Unilateral amputation of key municipal services through massive (and until political pressure forced a retreat, retroactive) funding cuts.
A new relationship
The current state of affairs is unsustainable.
Toronto needs a new relationship with the provincial government, founded on mutual respect and co-operation. But trust is no longer enough; we need constitutionally-protected guarantees of Toronto's autonomy and governance of its own affairs.
Charter City Proposal
Charter City Toronto proposes new constitutional arrangements to empower Toronto (and other Ontario or Canadian cities).
We propose a City Charter that will separate and define the respective responsibilities of the city and the province, in order to enable a confident partnership on matters of truly mutual concern.
We propose new financial arrangements that will give the city a solid, independent foundation upon which to build its future.
In the coming weeks, we will unveil concrete proposals to achieve these things. They are not the final word on the subject, but we hope they will bring into the public realm a conversation that has already begun to bubble vigorously beneath the surface.
We hope you'll join that conversation.
CHARTER CITY TORONTO NEWS
CAPACITY CROWD FOR CHARTER CITIES
1,40O Torontonians pack a church on St. Clair Ave to hear about a City Charter for Toronto
Toronto Star Reporter Jennifer Pagliaro talks Charter Cities with Jordan Heath-Rawlings of the Big Story podcast. An excellent report on the meeting and great overview of the Charter City Toronto movement.
CHARTER CITIES ON TVO
Charter City Toronto's Doug Earl and
York University Prof Tricia Wood talk Charter Cities on TVO's
The Agenda with Steve Paikin.
CCTO AT CITY COUNCIL
City Charter could help get Toronto's governance back, CCTO's Doug Earl tells city committee.
CHARTER CITY ROUND TABLE
On March 25, we asked 50 citizens what they think about a City Charter for Toronto. Here's what they told us.
CCTO ON SPACING RADIO
Former Mayor John Sewell and CCTO's Doug Earl talk about Charter Cities on spacing radio.
(STARTS AT 16 MINUTES IN)