The Canadian Constitution sets out the responsibilities of the federal and provincial governments and does not recognize municipalities as a separate order of government. The Constitution gives provinces exclusive control over municipalities, including the rules that govern them.
Provincial regulations and legislation define the City’s relationship with the Ontario government. The most significant is the City of Toronto Act, 2006, which gives the City powers to provide services to its residents, manage its finances and establish accountability officers for the City.
Other Acts that define the rules governing the City include the Municipal Elections Act, Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act, Planning Act and Heritage Act.
|Level of Government||FEDERAL
Government of Canada
Government of Ontario
City of Toronto
|Powers defined by||Constitution Act, 1867||Constitution Act, 1867||City of Toronto Act, 2006|
Diversity Our Strength is the City of Toronto’s motto. It refers to the combined strength of the seven former municipalities that make up the City of Toronto.
In 1974, the City of Toronto held a competition to design a new flag. More than 700 submissions were received from children and adults across the city, ranging in age from six to 90 years old. In a unanimous vote, Council selected the design of 21 year-old George Brown College graphic design student, Renato De Santis. De Santis’ design included the letter ‘T’ for Toronto, the outline of City Hall on a blue background, and a red maple leaf representing the Council Chamber at the base of the towers. After the amalgamation of the City of Toronto in 1998, a further competition was held but the decision was made by Council to keep the original design.
The City of Toronto Coat of Arms is designed in the form of a shield and is used as a symbol of identity. The symbol is intended for ceremonial application only. Use of the Coat of Arms on business stationery is restricted to Toronto’s Mayor and Councillors or as authorized by the City Clerk.
The Coat of Arms was created in 1998 in consultation with the Chief Herald of Canada.
The City of Toronto’s governance model relies on a balance between:
City Council: The legislative body for the City, Council has a duty to find consensus while balancing city-wide and local considerations. Council is composed of the Mayor and Councillors. The Mayor fulfills a city-wide mandate, leading Council in strategic and financial planning and representing the City to other governments. The Mayor and Councillors each have one vote at Council and a majority vote decides most matters.
Public Service: The staff of the City and most agencies make up the public service. The public service provides objective, professional advice to Council and its agencies and corporations, and implements Council’s decisions according to City policy, standards and principles of effective public service.
The Public: The public play an essential role in ensuring the effectiveness of decision making by:
The City has four Accountability Officers and an Open and Closed Meeting Investigator to help ensure that City government remains open and transparent.
The powers of the City, granted by the Province of Ontario, are exercised by Council unless Council decides to delegate its authority. Council has direct responsibility for oversight of the City’s services and indirect oversight for services delivered through its agencies and corporations, such as the Toronto Police Service, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the Toronto Public Library, and Toronto Community Housing.
Council is made up of the Mayor and 25 Councillors. The Mayor is elected by voters from across the city. Each Councillor is elected by voters in one of 25 wards (see Figure 4). The term of office for the Mayor and Councillors is four years.
Figure 4 – City of Toronto Wards
The role of Council as set out in the City of Toronto Act, 2006, is to:
In Ontario, the Mayor and councillors are not elected to represent a political party. Elected officials do not operate under any party mandates and there is no official opposition. Each member of Council is independent and can choose how they vote on any issue.
The Mayor has two important roles: head of Council and Chief Executive Officer.
As the head of Council, the Mayor:
As the Chief Executive Officer, the Mayor:
The duties and powers of the Mayor include:
Council has also delegated to the Mayor the power to appoint and remove the Deputy Mayor and Standing Committee chairs.
The Mayor is a member of all committees and is entitled to one vote. The Mayor also has a seat on the boards of a number of City agencies and corporations, although Council, with the consent of the Mayor, may appoint another member to take the Mayor’s place.
The Mayor may identify designates for these board positions.
Although the Mayor, as head of Council, chairs Council meetings and can expel any person for improper conduct at a meeting, Council with the consent of the Mayor, established the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker for these purposes. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected by Council from among its members and serve for the term of Council.
The Mayor may appoint a Deputy Mayor. The Deputy Mayor assists the Mayor, is Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee and can act as Mayor when the Mayor is absent from the City, because of illness or when the office of the Mayor is vacant.
The Deputy Mayor has all the rights, power and authority of the Mayor except the power to sit on a Community Council.
Councillors have both a legislative role and a constituency role. In their legislative role, they are responsible as part of Council for deliberating and establishing policies and by-laws to implement Council’s decisions. In their constituency role, Councillors are responsible for consulting with the public who live in their wards and considering multiple perspectives on the issues on which they are making decisions. To find out who your Councillor is, call 311 or visit the City’s website.
Councillors work on city-wide, ward and local neighbourhood issues. To carry out this role effectively, Councillors serve on various committees and boards including:
In addition to these formal appointments, many Councillors serve in a volunteer capacity on other community organizations.
All Council and committee meetings are open to the public. Only in certain circumstances as described in the City of Toronto Act, can a meeting be closed to the public. Even if there is a closed session of a meeting, the meeting will begin and end in public and Council will vote in public. Only on a procedural matter or to give confidential instructions to City officials, can a vote happen in a closed session.
Committee and Council agendas, reports, minutes, decision documents, votes and attendance are made available online to the public. Meetings are streamed live on YouTube and live updates on the status of agenda items are also now available through the City Council web page.
The public can speak to a committee or Community Council about an agenda item for up to five minutes, and Councillors may ask them questions. Speakers must register in advance with the committee clerk. Instructions are provided online with the meeting agendas. The public may also submit comments in writing at the meeting, by email, fax or mail to the committee clerk. All comments collected by City Clerk’s Office staff are included on the public record.
Only community councils and committees hear from public presenters. The public cannot speak at Council, except under special circumstances. Visit the relevant community council or committee web page for more information or to contact a committee clerk.
With few exceptions, the business of the City is introduced at a committee and debated to make recommendations to Council (Figure 5). Committees allow for debate and public input on:
Council’s committees include:
Figure 5 – City of Toronto Committee Structure
Figure 6. City of Toronto Community Councils
Figure 7 – Overview of City of Toronto’s Decision Making Process
The public service is the City’s staff who implement the priorities and directions of Council and are responsible for the delivery of services to residents, many 24 hours a day, and seven days a week.
The public service is guided by the Toronto Public Service Bylaw, legislation that defines the separation between the City’s administration and Council and sets out the public service’s professional, impartial, and ethical standards.
The City Manager is the head of the public service and is accountable to Council for the effective delivery of Council’s policies and programs by the Toronto Public Service.
The City Manager:
The City Manager is appointed by Council on the recommendation of the Mayor.
The Deputy City Managers and Chief Financial Officer
The City Manager is assisted by three Deputy City Managers (DCMs) and one Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The Deputies lead City-wide initiatives, collaborating and integrating across programs to deliver services and Council’s priorities.
The City Clerk is an officer of the City whose duties are outlined in provincial legislation and delegated by Council. Council appoints the Clerk who reports to Council for statutory responsibilities and the City Manager for administrative purposes.
The services provided by the City Clerk’s Office include:
The City Solicitor oversees the Legal Services division and reports to Council for statutory purposes and to the City Manager for administrative purposes. Legal Services provide legal advice to City divisions in multiple areas of law including municipal law, litigation, real estate law, employment and labour law, planning law, and prosecutions, and to Council as required.
Division Heads are responsible for managing City divisions. Divisions deliver one or more City services. The Division Head is responsible for:
The City of Toronto is required by provincial law to have an Auditor General, Integrity Commissioner, Ombudsman, lobbyist registry, and an Open and Closed Meetings Investigator. More information about the Accountability Officers is available below and online.
The Accountability Officers provide Council and the public with objective and independent oversight to ensure the transparency and accountability of City government. Each Officer has their mandate and can only act on matters and conduct investigations within that mandate.
The four Accountability Officers operate under a four-way Memorandum of Understanding, allowing them to co-operate and co-ordinate their work as they independently fulfil their respective mandates.
The Integrity Commissioner investigates complaints into whether a Member of Council or a member of a local board or adjudicative board has violated the applicable Code of Conduct.
The City has 134 agencies and corporations. Each agency and corporation has a different mandate and responsibility but generally fall into four broad categories:
Council has established agencies and corporations for a variety of reasons including:
More information is available below and online at the City of Toronto’s Agencies and Corporations information web page.
Municipal elections happen every four years on the fourth Monday of October. Eligible voters can vote for a mayor, councillor and school board trustee. A by-election can be held between general elections if a Council or school board seat becomes vacant.
The public can vote in Toronto’s municipal election if they are:
The public can contact the Mayor or their councillor at any time and find out who their councillor is by calling 311 or at www.toronto.ca/members-of-council/. Every councillor has an office at City Hall and many also have offices in their wards.
City staff engage the public in a variety of ways to gather input about local or city-wide issues through meetings, open houses, online forums, advisory bodies, surveys, polls and more. The public can find out about opportunities to participate at www.toronto.ca/getinvolved.
The City delivers some of its services through agencies and corporations. Each agency and corporation has its board of directors and many include members of the public. Information on how to apply to become a member of a board is available on the City’s Public Appointments web page at www.toronto.ca/ServeYourCity.
Polls: Households or businesses may receive information by mail from the City about a local poll. Polls are conducted to gather opinions about possible changes, such as installing traffic calming on a street, or allowing front-yard parking at a nearby property.
Petitions: The public can deliver a petition in person or send it by mail, fax or e-mail to the City Clerk if the petition relates to a matter on Council’s agenda, to a Council member for any matter. The petition, including all the names of those who have signed it, becomes part of the public record.