The second event in our Civic Engagement event series: Where Do We Start invited city councillors and candidates to the stage to tell us a little about what they do and why their jobs matter. Here are our top takeaways from our panel discussion!
And, be sure to check out next Tuesday’s event where we will tackle what it means to be an activist and how you can start getting involved!
What do city councillors do? Short answer is: a lot! Who organizes your building or alcohol permits, who do you call when you get an eviction notice? Do you know what type of property you have? The list of responsibilities of council councillors is below, and you can find more details HERE.
- chair or member of a standing committee
- chair or member of a community council
- chair or member of additional committees and boards such as sub-committees, advisory committees, task forces, boards of management, and program operating boards. In addition to these formal appointments most Councillors serve in a volunteer capacity with other community organizations
Recently the provincial government cut the number of Toronto MPs in half. What does it mean for our city?
In general, things are going to move a lot slower. An example given was the Mirvish Village Development. There were weekly meetings on this for 2 years where a city councillor was present to represent the community. Given the amount of boards, panels, and organizations our city councillor’s are apart of, they will no longer be able to participate in these meetings. What does that mean for us? Our elected officials will no longer be able to be apart of these decisions, and more will be left in the hands of the developers. Counsellors also work with local BIAs, which meet regularly. We elect councillors to be our advocates and they hold a vote on many city matters. If we cut them in half we are losing half of our mouthpieces, and only Torontonians with the financial ability to hire a corporate lawyer will be able to defend their rights and be heard!
What can you do to find out about the candidates in your ward (if you only have five minutes on the way to work)?
Call their office! Look at their website, contact their campaign managers.
What can we do as citizens to engage with councillors and their policies?
Toronto City Councillor Gord Perks believes it is a fundamental duty as a citizen to participate in civics. This involves recognizing and exploring the deep and profound injustices in our society and trying to be proactive to change them. How can you do this? Join something. Studies have shown that areas with the most vigorous democracies have the highest amount of ‘joiners.’ Even something that may seem insignificant to politics such as joining a choir reflects the way in which people engage with their communities. The more invested a population is, the more change can be made and their voices be heard. According to Perks, you should be attending civic engagement events weekly leading up to the election (…see our weekly Civic Engagement series HERE).
All councillors noted that candidates want to hear from you! Make an appointment and go to their office!
Take home messages:
Democracy is a muscle! You need to exercise it. Find whatever issue burns in your gut, what you feel passionate about, and join a group! Speak up! Find ways to get involved to make a difference.
What is the yellow belt?
Coined by urban planner Gil Meslin, describes a large swath of land that is designated as ‘Neighbourhoods’ in the City of Toronto’s Official Plan. The Yellowbelt could be defined by several residential zones and by-laws, but, as Sean Galbraith points out, the primary zone within the Yellowbelt is the Residential Detached (RD) zone – defined in the city of Toronto Zoning By-Law as areas that prevent higher-density development (through maximum height of 10 metres) and permit only detached residential housing.
What is a dwelling unit?
A dwelling unit is a room or suite of rooms operated as a self-contained housekeeping unit that includes independent cooking, eating, living, sleeping and bathroom facilities.
Inclusionary zoning (IZ) is a land-use planning tool that a municipality may use to require affordable housing units (IZ units) to be included in residentIal developments of 10 units or more.
What are ranked ballots?
Ranked ballots are used in voting systems in which voters are able to rank candidates based on their preference (i.e. first preference candidate, second preference candidate, etc.).
What is the executive function of government?
Executive Government” broadly refers to the arm of government responsible for carrying out or administering laws enacted by the legislature. The term is also used in relation to Ministers from the governing party who make policy decisions and are responsible for the administration of government.