City Agencies & Corporations Learning Guide
What are the City’s Agencies and Corporations?
Many of the City’s programs and services are delivered by staff from the City’s divisions, such as Transportation Services, City Planning, and Parks, Forestry & Recreation. However, many other important services are administered on behalf of the City and the community through separate City agencies and corporations and other special purpose bodies, each having its own relationship with City Council. Other services are administered through corporations that are partnered with the City.
City agencies and corporations range in size and scope from large corporations with a lot of authority over their own operations, such as Toronto Hydro Corporation, to small community-based boards that rely on community involvement and volunteers to deliver programs, such as Community Centre 55.
City Council has chosen to deliver some services through agencies or corporations in cases where decision-making has been delegated to a board of directors, rather than Council. There are a variety of reasons for doing this:
- In some cases it is required by legislation (e.g. Police, Library, Board of Health)
- To engage citizen members in decision-making
- to bring additional expertise on specific matters
- to satisfy neighbourhood interests
- to use volunteer capacity
- to involve funders or fund-raisers
- to provide a voice for stakeholders or special interest groups
- To establish independence for quasi-judicial decisions (such as the Committee of Adjustment, which makes decisions on some local planning issues)
- To focus on one major policy objective, facility, or service (such as the Sign Variance Committee)
- To operate within a commercial environment (for example, Toronto Hydro or Build Toronto)
The reasons vary with each agency, but the composition of the board and the operating principles and policies followed should be consistent with the reasons for establishing the arms-length relationship in order for the service to be delivered effectively.
City agencies and corporations range in size and scope and degree of independence from the City. For example:
- City Corporations are owned by the City but they own their assets and operate independently from the City. Two examples are Toronto Hydro and Toronto Community Housing Corporation.
- Agencies have delegated decision-making authority and deliver their services, but Council approves their budgets, sets certain policies, and makes certain significant decisions. Some examples are the TTC, the Toronto Parking Authority, and Exhibition Place.
- There are small, community-based agencies which rely extensively on community involvement and volunteers to deliver their programs and the City provides the capital budget and a range of administrative supports.
- There are quasi-judicial adjudicative bodies (boards and positions that conduct hearings to decide on individual cases related to specific issues) and financial management bodies that make final and binding decisions, but rely on City staff for all administrative support. An example of one of these bodies is the Toronto Licensing Tribunal which makes decisions on licensing issues involving things like taxicabs, tow trucks, and restaurants.
City Council has delegated varying levels of authority to its agencies and corporations to deliver services on Council’s behalf. Different agencies may have different powers and responsibilities based on different legislative requirements and differences in status, mandate and structure. With these responsibilities comes the obligation to conduct business in a manner consistent with City objectives. City Council does a number of things to support these relationships:
- Council has the power to change the mandates and governance structures of its agencies. Some limitations apply for Police, Library, and Board of Health that are required by legislation.
- Council appoints members of Council and Toronto residents to serve on the boards of directors of agencies and corporations.
- Council has approved a number of relationship frameworks that define the relationship between the City and the specific agency including Council’s delegation of authority, expectations, policy requirements, and requirements for reporting to Council.
- For City-owned corporations, Council as the shareholder approves Shareholder Directions to the boards of directors.
Are you someone who wants to make a difference in the community? Do you have the time, talent and enthusiasm that the City is looking for? Do you believe in open and accountable government?
The City needs residents of Toronto to serve on high profile, challenging and exciting boards of directors for City agencies. This includes people with a wide range of expertise in many fields such as public health, real estate development, law, business, environment, financial management, adjudication, market development, public policy, urban planning, trade shows, heritage, literacy, public safety, etc. Our priority is to appoint boards that reflect the diversity of the community they serve.
If you are interested in applying to serve on the board of a City agency or corporation, or call 311 to learn more about what opportunities are available and how you can get involved.