05 Dec, 2017

IMFG Paper 36: Re-imagining Community Councils in Canadian Local Government

New paper from the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance looks at how community councils might strike the right balance between the needs of the community and the authority of City Council.

Toronto, December 5, 2017 – Twenty years after amalgamation, Toronto City Council will soon reconsider the authority and role of its four community councils. Operating at a smaller scale than City Council, community councils were originally intended to capture local voices and recognize the unique histories and practices of individual neighbourhoods. Should community councils serve a greater governance role in Toronto?

In a new paper released by the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG), University of Toronto professor Alexandra Flynn and IMFG Visiting Researcher Zachary Spicer examine Toronto’s community councils alongside similar bodies in cities across Canada and the United States. They argue that community councils can and should play a larger role in local governance.

“Over time, most community councils have failed to live up to the promise of maintaining local decision-making authority in the wake of amalgamation,” argue Flynn and Spicer. “Toronto has the opportunity to be one of the first Canadian cities to strike the right balance between the needs of the community and the authority of City Council.”

The authors make three recommendations for Toronto’s community councils:

  • Expand the definition of what is considered a “local” matter so that community councils can play a more meaningful role in the major debates affecting the city’s future;
  • Increase the powers of community councils, to relieve the city council agenda and empower local decision-makers; and
  • Give residents the ability to serve directly on community councils, expanding opportunity for community members to take a direct role in shaping their city.

Access the paper

About the Authors

Alexandra Flynn is Assistant Professor in the Human Geography and City Studies program at the University of Toronto (Scarborough), where she teaches and researches in the area of urban governance. Alexandra has more than 10 years’ experience as a lawyer and senior policy official, most recently at the City of Toronto, where she focused on intergovernmental relations.

Zachary Spicer is a Visiting Researcher with the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance. He recently served as Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Brock University. He is a member of the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) at Wilfred Laurier University and also serves on LISPOP’s Management Board.

About the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG)

The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance is a research hub and think tank that focuses on the fiscal and governance challenges facing large cities and city-regions. It is located within the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

For more information, please contact:
Selena Zhang | Manager, Programs and Research
Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
selena.zhang@utoronto.ca | www.munkschool.utoronto.ca/imfg