Cox, Wendell; Gilchrist, Steve; Golden, Anne
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A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
A discussion of three fundamental problems with the proposed megacity: that it will weaken democracy; that it will not save money; that it threatens the city of which the people are so justly proud. Ways in which the megacity violates the most basic principles of democracy. Problems with the inaccessibility of larger municipal governments. Secession movements underway. Ways in which the megacity is just too big. The issue of costs. Evidence from the United States that larger governments are routinely more expensive than smaller government on a per-capita basis. Why larger cities are less cost-efficient than smaller cities. Five factors with regard to harmonising services and labour contracts, pay increases for bureaucrats, municipal trade unions wielding more power, and a lack of innovation. No evidence that amalgamation saves money. Reducing the cost of government through the competitive market. An example from Australia. Justifiable concern about metropolitan services that go beyond municipal boundaries. The possibility that amalgamation could torpedo metropolitan co-ordination and co-operation. The fragility of cities. A suggestion to establish the proposed Greater Toronto Services Board--to strengthen the existing municipalities and to abolish Metro. Some words on the transfer of social services to municipalities. Using referenda to decide important issues.
An historical context for the Bill. Government recognition that there are choices to be made in terms of how the governance evolves to match the evolution of the city itself. Different models considered. 60 different studies done just in the last five years on the issue of consolidating services. Reasons for consolidation of services. Flaws in the four-city model. How the megacity model was arrived at. The issue of actual-value assessment. Benefits of the one-city model. The community councils. The ability to attract new jobs and investment as one city. The greatest possible efficiencies and cost savings by co-ordinating service delivery and by ending duplication overlap.
The "Megacity" referring not only to the proposal to amalgamate Metro's six municipalities into one City of Toronto, but to the series of announced changes which include assessment reform, structural reform within metro and the GTA, the so-called disentanglement proposals for re-defining who does and pays for what, and finally, the process itself by which these mega-changes are being implemented. The primary rationale being put forward by the government for these massive changes that "the status quo is not an option." The Task Force chaired by the speaker couching its recommendations in the same language, but grounded in research and made in response to a clear diagnosis of the problems. The speaker's belief that much of the anxiety about the changes is due to the absence of a perceived logical link between the proposals for change and the real need for reform. Understanding the case for change. The issue of property taxes: two separate but related challenges: to stop the continuing erosion of the property-tax base through successful assessment appeals; to reduce or eliminate the difference in the level of property taxes paid by businesses in Metro compared to those outside Metro. The importance of solving this dual problem. Consequences if it is not solved. An updated property-tax system based on current value assessment (AVA) the right thing to do, and why that is so. A need for the second and complementary step to assessment reform as some measure of GTA-wide business-tax pooling. The potential for urban decay in the current plan to download welfare and welfare-related costs to municipalities, and how that is so. The property-tax crisis closely linked to the second critical challenge: to make the Greater Toronto region economically competitive. Problems of fragmentation among the five regions of the GTA and between the municipalities and the province. The need for a government structure that will facilitate a more strategic and integrated approach to managing the growth that will come with the expected addition of some two million people to the city region over the next 25 years. The issues of the need for more integrated planning of land use and infrastructure, such as transportation across Greater Toronto. The concern that the megacity unification plan will make the essential regional agenda more difficult to achieve. The main point that the Megacity for Metro misses the point. "If amalgamating Metro's municipalities solves a problem, that problem has yet to be identified." The need for more entrepreneurial, more cost-effective, and less-entangled government. Evidence that a single, bigger bureaucracy in Metro will not be more cost-effective. Some words about the process. The real task before us to create the capacity for region-wide problem solving, combined with effective local government. The plan to "Megacitize" Metro irrelevant at best and possibly counter-productive. The speaker's greatest concern that the combination of proposals is that they foster a political climate and dynamic of unhealthy competition instead of regional co-operation.