About Your Local Government
Helpful information to get you started on understanding the three levels of government in Canada, the Toronto Public Service and how decisions are made by Council and committees.
The City of Toronto is your local government, also known as the municipal level of government. In Canada, we also have a federal government and provincial government. Each of these levels has different responsibilities but they often work together. The City of Toronto provides services that have a direct impact on our daily lives.
Municipal: City of Toronto
The City of Toronto is your local government and is responsible for: water treatment, parks, libraries, garbage collection, public transit, land use planning, traffic signals, police, paramedics, fire services, sewers, homeless shelters, childcare, recreation centres and more. Powers are defined by the City of Toronto Act, 2006.
City of Toronto facts
- About 2.9 million people
- 150+ City Services
- 5,600 km of roads
- 6,100 km of water mains
- 83 fire stations and 45 ambulance stations
- 1,600 named parks
- 100 libraries
Based on figures from 2019.
Provincial: Government of Ontario
The provincial Government of Ontario is responsible for: health, education, driver and vehicle licensing, energy, human rights, natural resources, environment, social services and more. Powers are defined by the Constitution Act, 1867.
Federal: Government of Canada
The federal Government of Canada is responsible for: national defence and Canadian Armed Forces, postal service, banking, employment, citizenship and immigration, census, foreign affairs and international trade, agriculture and more. Powers defined by the Constitution Act, 1867.
City Council is made up of 26 members: the mayor, who is elected city-wide, and 25 councillors who are elected in each ward across the city. The Mayor and Councillors each have one vote at Council and a majority vote decides most matters. The Mayor and Councillors are not elected to represent a political party. Each member of Council is independent and can choose how they vote on any issue.
The mayor provides leadership to City Council and:
- represents Toronto across Canada and around the world
- works with different levels of government
- chairs the Executive Committee
- appoints councillors to chair the standing committees of City Council
Councillors talk to residents, businesses and community groups about City programs and services and listen to their concerns. Councillors:
- attend City Council and committee meetings
- sit on the boards of City agencies and corporations
- propose changes to the decisions City Council makes
- introduce motions to propose action or raise awareness of issues
- hold or attend community meetings to get input from the public
- host or get involved in community events
- help people access City services
Some Councillors take on additional roles by chairing committees or boards.
The Mayor and Councillors must balance the needs of many different communities and interests across the city. In order to manage their workload and study items in greater detail City Council uses a system of committees. There are two types of committees: standing committees and community councils. City Council also manages its workload by delegating certain responsibilities to City boards.
Committees are each made up of between 5 and 8 councillors. Committees hear from the public and make recommendations to City Council on specific items. City Council and its committees meet on a monthly cycle throughout the year. Each cycle starts with committee meetings and ends with a full City Council meeting.
Standing committees make recommendations on city-wide issues, such as parks, budget, roads and bridges, garbage and recycling, housing, planning, economic development, licensing and more. Final decisions are made at City Council meetings. There is an executive committee, chaired by the mayor, as well as four standing committees:
- Economic and Community Development Committee
- General Government and Licensing Committee
- Infrastructure and Environment Committee
- Planning and Housing Committee
Community councils make recommendations on local issues such as traffic lights, tree removal, parking permits, fence bylaws, appointments to local boards, local planning and development applications and more. They can make some final decisions without going to City Council. There are four community councils and each represents an area of the city: Etobicoke York, Toronto and East York, North York and Scarborough.
Boards of agencies and corporations govern and manage various City services on behalf of City Council. Boards of agencies and corporations include both councillors and members of the public who contribute their skills and experience to the running of the City. Examples of agencies and corporations include the TTC, Toronto Zoo and Toronto Hydro.
The City of Toronto Act is legislation provided by the provincial government. The Act gives the City power to make decisions and provide the services and programs the public needs.
The Toronto Public Service is guided by a bylaw that defines the roles between the City’s administration and City Council. The bylaw states the public service’s professional, impartial and ethical standards.
The City Manager is the head of the public service and is accountable to City Council. The City Manager is responsible for:
- the delivery of services, policy direction and program delivery of all City divisions
- providing Council with a single point of administrative accountability and strategic leadership
- providing organizational leadership to the Toronto Public Service
The City Manager is appointed by Council on the recommendation of the mayor, and is assisted by three deputy city managers and one chief financial officer.
The City Clerk is an officer of the City and their 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:
- supporting Council’s decision-making processes
- corporate information management
- assisting the mayor and councillors in their ceremonial and civic duties
- serving the public in provincially-mandated areas, such as issuing marriage licences
- providing administrative, budget and business support to Members of Council and the Integrity Commissioner, Lobbyist Registrar and Ombudsman
- administering elections
The City Solicitor oversees the Legal Services division and reports to Council for statutory purposes, and to the City Manager for administrative purposes.
In order to ensure your local government is open and transparent the City of Toronto has four accountability officers. Each has a different responsibility:
- The Auditor General audits City programs and conducts fraud and waste investigations
- The Integrity Commissioner looks into complaints about members of City Council and local boards
- The Lobbyist Registrar monitors and manages the public disclosure of lobbying activities and regulation of lobbyists conduct
- The Ombudsman addresses concerns about City services and investigates complaints about administrative unfairness.
Divisions and Division Heads are responsible for managing City divisions. Divisions deliver one or more City services. The division head is responsible for:
- responding to questions about their programs and services at Standing Committees and Council meetings
- setting service objectives for their division and monitoring progress
- day-to-day operations
- staff and budgets within their service
- working collaboratively to achieve Council priorities
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.
The City of Toronto provides many great programs and services for its residents. Ensuring you know how to access these services is a very important part of that.
The City of Toronto website is a great resource to find out what is happening in your city, learn about new programs and find information. 311 is also a very useful tool you can use to get information. By contacting 311 you no longer have to try to find the right division or individual at the City to get information or help.
- Website: Toronto.ca/311
- Phone: 311
- Twitter: @311toronto
The City of Toronto is divided into areas called wards. Each ward is identified by a name and number, and has an elected official called a councillor. The councillor in your ward represents you and the mayor represents the whole city.
Community Council Profiles:
Wards are divided into four areas and each area has a community council made up of councillors from those wards.
|Etobicoke York||1, 2, 3, 5, 7|
|North York||6, 8, 15, 16, 17, 18|
|Toronto and East York||4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 19|
|Scarborough||20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25|
Issues, ideas and proposals arise in the decision making process from members of Council, reports from advisory bodies, agencies, corporations and City staff. City staff may hold public consultations that you can attend to get information and share your opinion. Items then go to a meeting of a community council or standing committee. You can share your opinion with committee members by speaking at a meeting or submitting your comments in writing.
Sometimes, community councils can make a final decision. For other items, a recommendation is made to City Council. At City Council, items from committees and community councils are considered. In addition, urgent new business from members of Council or City staff may go directly to City Council.
You can attend City Council meetings in person, stream online or watch on television. City Council can make a final decision or send the item back to a committee for more information. Once a final decision is made, City Council passes a bylaw confirming the decision. City staff then put the decision into action. The public can comment on policies and services to staff and Councillors and by contacting 311.
You can also find out more information about how decisions are made in the Introduction to Toronto’s Government Guide.