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Is Toronto about to get a makeover? Chow could set new tone with council appointments: experts | CBC News

Is Toronto City Hall on the cusp of a serious makeover?

Newly-elected Mayor Olivia Chow has signaled that change is coming to key committees and appointments, and it looks like she’ll be applying more than just a fresh coat of paint.

A motion coming to council this week, which will be one of Chow’s key items at her first meeting, kickstarts the work.

Chow said she’s been busy talking with members of council about their priorities since she won the city’s top job last month. 

Among those priorities, she said, are a “deepening housing crisis, a sense of unease in our communities, and a transit system that is less reliable.”

“It is through these conversations that I have been made even more hopeful for the future of our city because I can see clear common ground across city council.”

If passed, Toronto’s clerk will continue the discussions the new mayor started with councillors about where they’d like to be appointed to committees, local boards, city corporations and other agencies. That will be followed by a report recommending a new slate of appointments for council’s consideration, potentially as early as September.

Appointments may reflect approach of past mayors

The appointments matter. 

Council committees are key pinch-points that can speed up or slow down a mayor’s policy agenda. So, understandably, mayors tend to wield the power they have to appoint the chairs and members of those committees to make their lives easier.

Former councillor John Filion said Chow’s motion suggests she may being trying to strike a more conciliatory tone than just installing key allies. It might also mean that when she unveils her choices, they’ll reflect councillors across the political spectrum, he added. 

Filion said former mayors Mel Lastman and David Miller did to try to keep the peace at council. Chow herself was appointed by Lastman as the city’s child advocate even though the two differed in their politics.

“I expect that she will be including everybody who’s willing to work with her and move the city ahead together,” he said.

Filion said the appointments process also has the potential to establish, or deepen, good working relationships among councillors themselves, he added. Chow will want to minimize dysfunction at city hall to pass her agenda, he said.

“When people are fighting, especially when they’re fighting over nothing, it just uses up so much time and energy,” he added. 

Former councillor Joe Mihevc said Chow has two aims with the appointments: to strike a balance of power on council and to keep people happy. Neither is easy.

“She needs at least 15 or 16 people that are happy and that will support her in her agenda,” he said.

There’s a lot more on the council agenda, which you can find here, and CBC Toronto has taken a deeper dive into some of the topics. You can also watch the meeting live on the city’s YouTube page or attend in person should your schedule allow. 

Drinking in parks

Yes, once again, city council will debate the merits of cracking a cold beer (or whatever alcoholic beverage you prefer) in a local park. 

In a proposed pilot project, some councillors have nominated several parks while others have not. It’s also worth pointing out, based on the report, that the city hasn’t issued a single ticket for this bylaw offence this year.

Snow-clearing concerns

Snow-clearing has been the subject of two auditor general reports and a variance report shows the city spent some $26 million more than anticipated on the service last winter. 

Councillors have been critical of that service, so expect more at council. 

A leaf-blower ban?

Perhaps more in season than snow-clearing, council will debate a proposed ban on leaf-blowers.

Stiffer rules for running for office

If you followed the hoopla around 102 candidates running for mayor in the last byelection, you might want to keep an eye on this motion, which aims to change some of the eligibility rules. 


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