Don’t forget your city councillor!

The Toronto mayoral election is generating quite a buzz this year, and thank goodness for that! However, selecting a mayor is but one choice to consider come November 10th. The other equally important decision involves selecting your city councillor.

Your city councillor is to your municipal government as your MPP and MP are to your provincial and federal governments. That is, they represent the interests of the area in which you live while they are at council. As the province and country are divided into ridings, Toronto is divided into 44 wards for the 2003 municipal election. To find out which ward you live in, consult the City of Toronto Election 2003 website.

Ontario cities and municipalities have what is called a “weak mayor” system, in that the mayor’s vote in council is equal to that of a councillor’s. The mayor cannot rule by decree, but instead has to galvanise support from the councillors. A mayor with a strong vision and the ability to successfully communicate that vision can persuade councillors to vote for his ideas. By contrast, a mayor who cannot defend his vision for the city, or one who has no definite plans, cannot hope to draw support from council.

In selecting your councillor and your mayor, there are a number of strategies you could possibly employ. If you feel strongly about a mayoral candidate’s platform, it would be wise to select a councillor in your ward who shares the same ideas and who would consistently vote with your mayor. Similarly, if you feel strongly about most of a mayoral candidate’s ideas but oppose others, you might want to vote for a councillor who shares your views and who would vote with your mayor most of, but not all of, the time.

Unfortunately, many wards offer few choices as to candidates for city councillor. It is also not as easy to determine what your candidates stand for. Once you know who is running for councillor in your ward, try a search on Google. If environmental issues are your concern, the North Toronto Green Community has compiled some statements from candidates for city council from selected wards. For existing councillors, you might want to browse through the council and committee minutes to get a feel for how good a job your councillor is doing. The city of Toronto has been rife with scandals these past few years, so it would be wise to avoid re-electing a tainted councillor.

If selecting a mayor and a city councillor wasn’t enough, there’s also the question of choosing a school board trustee, but I’ll leave that one for someone else to tackle.

Update: Andrew Spicer has posted a review of Toronto Star columnist Royson James’ column in which Royson rates city councillors running for re-election. Andrew helpfully extracted Royson’s rating for Michael Walker, my city councillor, saving me valuable minutes.

On a related note, Erika Marquardt, the only person running against Michael Walker for city councillor in Ward 22, seems to be something of a political unknown. As such, I feel compelled to vote for Walker. Honestly, if you are running for public office and cannot be bothered to set up even a small web presence for your campaign, I cannot be bothered to vote for you. Marquardt didn’t even supply Toronto Elections with contact information, as evidenced by the candidates list for Ward 22, although I’m sure there’s a good reason.

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