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NDP Promises to Restore Toronto City Council to Former Size

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The Ontario NDP would reverse the size cuts made to Toronto City Council if elected, returning the governing body to its former size.

In their Toronto platform released on Sunday, the NDP pledged to repeal Bill 5, introduced by the Doug Ford government in 2018. The bill controversially slashed the number of Toronto’s electoral districts, and, consequently, city councillors, from 47 to 25. A legal battle with the City of Toronto ensued and was taken to the Supreme Court of Canada where a narrow 5-4 decision ruled that the bill was constitutional and the cuts would remain.

In their platform, the NDP say that the bill “overruled municipal interests,” and that repealing it will help to build a stronger democracy for Toronto.

Repealing the bill is just one of the NDP’s plans for municipal government reforms. The platform also outlines plans to explore ways to strengthen municipal decision making, including looking into the use of city charters. The party is also aiming to create a mixed member proportional voting system to ensure “every voter has a voice in the legislature.” This system, the platform says, will be designed by an independent group of citizens.

A number of other Toronto-specific policies are on the table, many of which focus on improvements to the city’s transit systems. The NDP are promising more frequent and reliable TTC service, saying they will restore 50% provincial funding for municipal transit operations. This funding will be used to implement a 10-minutes-or-better service guarantee across every major transit system, more busses with less crowding, and two-hours of unlimited travel across municipal transit systems in the GTHA on a single, low, flat-rate fare. This means that GO riders would be able to transfer to the TTC at no extra cost and vice versa.

“Everyday Torontonians just want to get back on solid ground,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “And together, we can. We can make homes more affordable, and staff up our health care system. We can lift people out of poverty, and make sure people don’t have to wait for transit.”

If elected, the party says it will also explore ways to expedite the Sheppard Subway extension and ensure more frequent bus service to fill in the gap that occurs when the Scarborough LRT is decommissioned in 2023.

“Scarborough has been left behind by Doug Ford and the Liberals before him,” said Doly Begum, NDP candidate for Scarborough Southwest. “But the NDP sees and hears our communities. That’s why we’re making crucial investments in Scarborough’s transit, lowering auto insurance by 40%, and adding the health care workers we need to bring wait times down.”

Community improvements were another focus of the Toronto-specific platform, with the party committing to moving ahead with the revitalization of Ontario Place. Plans for the revitalization, released by the Ontario government in mid-2021, call for new gardens and gathering spaces, pools and waterslides, an affordable four-season adventure park, and a revamped — and winterized — Budweiser Stage.

Cannabis shops, which have become a feature of virtually every block in some Toronto neighbourhoods, are also receiving attention from the NDP. In their platform, they promise to pass a bill giving cities more say in cannabis shop distribution.

“We’ll pass legislation to ensure the cannabis licensing process aligns with that of liquor licensing, avoiding situations where some Toronto neighbourhoods have none while others have too many,” the platform reads.

The would also be increased festival funding for celebrations like Pride Toronto, Caribana Toronto, and Taste of the Danforth, as well as the redevelopments of several local hospitals such as the Scarborough Health Network’s Centenary and Birchmount hospitals, SickKids, CAMH, St. Joseph’s, and Sunnybrook Health Science Centre.

With just over two weeks left before the election on June 2, the Ontario leaders will meet in Toronto for a debate on Monday, May 16 at 6:30 pm.

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