Re-imagining Community Councils in Canadian Local Government
In 2015, Toronto City Council asked city staff to review community councils as part of the City’s ward boundary review process. Toronto’s ward boundary review realigned the city’s wards, so the City now needs to set new boundaries for community councils. Staff has been directed to report back to Council in 2017 on the “impacts to governance and structure changes to the authority, duties, and function of community councils.” Meanwhile, in November 2016, the Province of Ontario introduced measures to strengthen the use of community councils across Ontario. There is thus a unique opportunity available to re-imagine the authority and use of Toronto’s community councils. In this paper, we review the function and scope of community councils in Canada, including their theoretical underpinnings and Toronto’s community council structure. We make three recommendations to strengthen Toronto’s community council network. First, we recommend redefining what is considered to be a “local” or “citywide” matter, thereby allowing community councils to examine a greater range of issues. Second, we argue that the City should expand its delegation to community councils, and thereby take more issues off the agenda of City Council. Finally, we propose allowing residents to serve directly on community councils.