There are over 400 municipal elections going on in Ontario today as major cities and small towns alike all head to the polls to elect new mayors and councillors. Of those, it is Toronto's municipal election that has arguably gotten the most media coverage over the past few months.
Today, Torontonians are due to cast their votes and will decide which candidate will rule the city for the next four years. But, as it turns out, that's not actually the mayor.
Toronto, like other Canadian municipalities, has both a council and a mayor. While everything we see in the media would lead us to believe that the mayor is the one calling all the shots, that's not the case.
In fact, in Toronto, almost all the power is in the hands of the council. As per the city's own guidelines, councillors are in charge of developing policies, maintaining the financials, and determine the services Toronto will provide, all of which is done through voting.
The mayor, on the other hand, is simply in charge of making sure council meetings are conducted efficiently, attending and participating in public events, and promoting the city. Their one unique power is that they are able to declare a state of emergency in the city.
“Here’s the reality of being the mayor of Toronto: if what you’re after is power, the job isn’t great, a columnist for the CBC wrote. "You have influence, sure — and you get to wear a gold chain, if you’re into that kind of thing — but you don’t have a lot of real, actionable, policy-making power. Under the city’s weak mayor system, it is council that has final say when making the city’s most significant decisions.”
Which means that even if the mayor wants to make a certain decision, a majority vote from the council could shut down any and all of their ideas completely, rendering them essentially useless.
All that being said, it is still incredibly important to go vote today. Even if the mayor is practically useless, Torontonians are also voting for new councillors today, who actually make all the real decisions. Beyond that, the mayor does still have a vote in council and is still one more person to represent you there.
While polls suggest that John Tory has a big lead on the other candidates, the races for council - which, as evidenced above, are what really matters - are a lot tighter, since the size of council was slashed from 44 wards to only 25.
The city election wraps up today and your last chance to cast your vote is at 8 PM tonight.