Jack Brezina: Canada's newest province
|By Jack Brezina - Contributing Writer | Dec. 5, 2018|
After a lot of wrangling that included a court challenge and a threat to invoke Canada’s constitutional “notwithstanding clause,” the new premier of Ontario had his ruling confirmed. It sliced the size of Toronto City Council from 47 to 25.
Some suggested it was a personal vendetta left over from when Doug Ford and his brother Rob, (the mayor who showed the world how quickly, like an over-ripe banana, populism can spiral into an abyss) were reined in by council members. Rob, the mayor, was stripped of his powers due to his erratic and much-publicized behavior and Doug was marginalized by a levelheaded majority at the council table.
Having risen to the office of provincial premier, Ford grabbed the levers of power and started yanking away. One of his early pronouncements was the reduction in the size of the council. It was an action which was well within his authority to exercise as municipalities are beholden to the province for their very existence.
One need only think back to the forced consolidation of the 13 municipalities of Victoria County into one municipal structure in 2001. That shotgun wedding came, with much to-do as well, at the hands of the last Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris.
The Ford edict was challenged on the basis that it came just as the candidates for the 46 seats were beginning their campaigns. The provincial order, court challenge and subsequent affirmation of the province’s right to rule on this matter, left candidates reeling as they tried to determine who they might represents and to whom to direct their appeal for votes.
Here’s a thought: Perhaps it is time for the City of Toronto and the surrounding area to be granted independent provincial status. Although the idea is not new (there is in fact a Wikipedia page on the subject) it is easier said than done.
First and foremost, the citizens of Toronto and any surrounding municipalities wanting to join the exit, would need to buy into the idea in a referendum. Ontario would have to agree … a highly unlikely possibility at the moment. The House of Commons and Senate would need to concur. Then, seven provinces, representing at least 50 per cent of the population would need to agree with the birth of what would be Canada’s eleventh province.
The city itself has a budget expenditure of $11.8 billion which is higher than at least four provinces and the three territories, its population of 2.6 million is bigger than six other provinces. Ontario (minus the Toronto population), Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta would have more citizens within their jurisdiction. The area of Toronto places it just ahead of PEI, Canada’s smallest province.
The idea has been bandied about for decades if not longer with endorsements from former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman, planner and urban guru, the late Jane Jacobs and various MP and MPPs.
Interestingly, Northern Ontario, often self portrayed as the forgotten sister, has suggested that it might be better off without the Toronto-centric politics that it sees as dominating the talk at Queen’s Park. Reflecting a similar attitude, some politicians from outside the GTA have proposed the separation as rural Ontario divorcing Toronto, rather than the other way around.
If Toronto somehow managed to pull off the divorce, and took some of the GTA with it, what remained of Ontario would be much diminished, but not beyond salvation. While the city would still be there, albeit surrounded by its former provincial overseers, it would be master in its own house. It has the budget, the population and the size to make it a viable candidate for Canada’s eleventh province.
Perhaps Mayor Tory should propose such a move, if only to return some of the attitude it has been getting from the Ford government.
Jack Brezina is a contributing writer for The Highlander.