Amalgamation of the six cities forming Metro Toronto has been a success
Toronto Star Editorial
December 23, 2014
Perhaps it’s the holiday season, inspiring rose-coloured nostalgia for a simpler time. Or it might be because the anniversary of Toronto’s Jan. 2 amalgamation again draws near. Or maybe it’s just happenstance.
Whatever the cause, there’s fresh debate stirring over the wisdom back in 1998 of combining the six municipalities that once formed Metro Toronto into one megacity.
The tainted mayoralty of Rob Ford is being put forward as evidence that amalgamation is a bust, giving too much power to narrow-minded suburbanites at the expense of inner-city sophisticates. In a recent interview with the Star’s David Rider, John Sewell, former mayor of the old City of Toronto, lamented what’s been lost and called for “a process that starts to talk about what the options might be.”
In many quarters, Metro’s old six cities are fondly remembered. And there’s no doubt that, 17 years post-amalgamation, Toronto still hasn’t jelled into a tightly-knit whole.
Even so, amalgamation marks a necessary step forward in the evolution of Canada’s largest city and, beyond that, it works.
The process has, no doubt, been difficult, stressful and maddeningly time-consuming. Administrative scars left behind when Metro’s six cities were sutured together haven’t fully healed. But what has emerged is a stronger, more equitable, more efficient city.
For one thing, the number of municipal politicians representing the area dropped to 45 from well over 100. Six collective agreements replaced 56 under Metro. And six city halls no longer each impose separate tax rates.
This has led to a more uniform provision of services. Under the old system, for example, York residents had fewer parks, playgrounds and other community benefits simply because they lived in the poorest of the old municipalities.
Metro government, so revered by amalgamation’s foes, was bitterly resented when it was created in 1953. And there was more sound and fury in 1966, when the province opted to eliminate seven of the 13 municipalities that were then included in Metro. Places such as Leaside, Long Branch, and Weston were swallowed up.
Seen in this light, combining Etobicoke, York, East York, North York, Scarborough and Toronto was no radical departure — it was a continuation of a long trend toward municipal concentration. Indeed it could be argued that Toronto and its surrounding regions are ready for further co-operation and integration, with someone needed to speak for the GTA as a whole.
Rather than looking back to the old six-city system, there’s more merit in looking forward; exploring new ways to deal with the shared and pressing challenges facing Toronto and its neighbours.