TORONTO — A published report suggests that the Ontario government is poised to reduce Toronto city council to just over half its current size.
The Toronto Star, citing unnamed sources within the Progressive Conservative government, reports that legislation will be introduced “as early as Monday” to reduce the number of council seats to 25 from 47.
The report comes on the eve of a deadline for candidates to register for the municipal election on Oct. 22.
Premier Doug Ford has scheduled a news conference for Friday morning, just hours before the 2 p.m. deadline.
Mayor John Tory will also speak to the media Friday morning to discuss the reported Ford plan. Tory told television station CP24 that he had a “very animated conversation” with Ford Thursday night and would have “much more to say” in what he called a major statement.
Tory declined to comment directly on the Star report, saying he wanted to collect his thoughts and choose his words carefully before reacting, adding he is concerned about anything that “affects the wellbeing of the people of the City of Toronto.”
Reaction from other politicians was swift Thursday night, with Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath saying Ford “cooked up a backroom plot to use his new power to meddle in municipal elections.”
In a statement, Horwath said Ford wants a smaller number of councillors “to make it easier for him to control Toronto city hall.”
Toronto city councillor Joe Mihevic posted a tweet calling the reported Ford plan a “destructive attack on local democracy” while fellow councillor Joe Cressy tweeted that Toronto’s residents “will suffer because of this back of a napkin plan.”
Councillor Janet Davis weighed in by calling the reported move “a gross misuse of power” while former Ontario premier Bob Rae labelled it a “chaotic and disrespectful.”
Once councillor, however, spoke in favour of the reported plan. George Mammoliti told a Toronto TV station that the city needs to start getting its fiscal house in order “and the way to do that is with a smaller city council.”
The newspaper also reported that the Ford government will cancel planned elections for regional chair positions in two Greater Toronto Area communities — Peel Region and York Region.
Such a move would put a damper on the political redemption hopes of Patrick Brown, whom Ford replaced as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.
Brown, who stepped down as Tory leader in January amid allegations of sexual misconduct that he denies, had thrown his hat into the ring to become the chair of Peel Region.
Horwath said reports that Ford is cancelling those regional elections “are deeply chilling.”
Representatives for the Progressive Conservative government did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Thursday.
The Canadian Press