The City Manager’s Office is conducting a review of the City’s public engagement methods, policies, and resources to drive continuous improvement towards more inclusive, accessible and relevant engagement, particularly with Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving communities. The review will include engagement with Members of Council early in 2023.

City divisions continue to engage with the public every day through a variety of virtual and in-person methods. Depending on the nature of a project or topic, divisions determine the best methods to engage residents, businesses, visitors, communities, neighbourhoods, organizations and City partners. Staff frequently engage with and through Members of Council and their offices, and assess a number of factors including resources, community capacity, technology, legal or legislative requirements and critical timelines to plan their engagement. The Public Engagement Review will further refine the City’s engagement tools and processes to advance equity and support Divisional and Council decision making.

Current Status

City staff are using a range of methods to invite feedback and ideas for the Public Engagement Review, including surveys, interviews, focus groups and community-led discussions. Staff are also reviewing public feedback and insights previously shared with the City, and research and best practices from other Canadian and international municipalities. Internal and external engagement practitioners and leaders and organizations in the Black, Indigenous and equity-deserving communities are contributing to the planning and delivery of the review, and co-creation of resources.

In addition to the Engagement Review, City divisions continue to support and deliver public engagement activities through virtual and in-person activities.

  • Virtual engagement: The pandemic has accelerated the City’s capacity, expertise and use of virtual engagement methods such as online surveys, map-based platforms and WebEx and Zoom meetings. This change has expanded participation and has been well-received by many members of the public, particularly those who previously experienced barriers to participating in person. Staff continue to evaluate, explore and refine virtual approaches.
  • In-person engagement: Most recently, public consultation meetings are primarily delivered virtually rather than in person, to protect public health and support greater accessibility and equity. However, divisions do continue to engage in person through activities such as intercept surveys, drop-ins and information “pop-ups” where appropriate for a range of projects or issues.
  • Hybrid engagement: In-person approaches are often complemented by virtual methods to expand participation, although hybrid approaches (which simultaneously engage in person and virtually) are quite limited for City engagements due to a lack of technological capacity in facilities.

Background & Context

Council’s direction to undertake a Public Engagement Review followed its consideration of the 2020 report from the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild, which highlighted the need for the City to improve the way it engages with youth, people with disabilities and Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQ+ and equity-seeking individuals and groups, and enhance coordination of research and public engagement data across the City to gain insights and inform decision making (EX17.1).

Public participation helps strengthen the relationship between the City and the public, and shape Toronto’s policies, programs, and services to meet the diverse needs of Torontonians.

The City engages with the public in many ways, every day. The public offer feedback on single topics or larger plans through opportunities such as participating in a meeting, joining a City advisory group, answering a survey, submitting comments to a Council committee, interacting with individual staff and by calling or connecting through 311 and with their councillor. Staff also engage with residents daily in their work in neighbourhoods and communities across the city, delivering programs and services, through community outreach, development and capacity building work, gathering and bringing input, feedback and ideas back through their divisions to inform work plans, service reviews and longer term strategies. City engagement activities are coordinated primarily at the divisional level, with the City Manager’s Office supporting corporate policies, tools and best practices and an inter-divisional community of practice.

Public input from numerous engagements has identified strengths as well as challenges with the City’s approaches and outcomes. Poor or unclear processes, over-consultation, weak relationships and a lack of representation from Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving groups are frequently identified as challenges in the City’s approach to engagement.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

The Public Engagement Review advances City commitments outlined in the Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism, Reconciliation Action Plan and other strategies to better engage, understand and consider the interests of Toronto’s diverse communities including Black, Indigenous and racialized and vulnerable populations. This work provides City staff, Council and the community with insights, advice, experience and partnerships that support strong programs, services, and initiatives for all Torontonians. It also informs better decision-making at the City and highlights the importance of equitable outcomes.

Key Contact

Rich Whate
Senior Corporate Management and Policy Consultant, City Manager’s Office, 416-895-1705

Additional Resources

COVID-19: Impacts and Opportunities Report, Toronto Officer of Recovery and Rebuild, October 2020