The new city council will be unveiled for us next week, and we’ll get to see who’ll be pushing the agenda forward for the newly re-elected David Miller.
The way city council operates has been tweaked with the introduction of the new City of Toronto Act, and the first chance for us to see it in action will be the appointment of an executive committee by the mayor. Joining Miller in this new civic cabinet will be 12 other councillors: they include the deputy mayor (Joe Pantelone has already been appointed to this position), seven committee chairs, and four councillors at large. The politicians who’ll form this bakers’ dozen will all be people with similar outlook on the city, so it won’t be much of a surprise who Miller and his striking committee will pick. The real intrigue lies in the choices for the chair position of the realigned committees.
The six committees the megacity has known for nine years have been retired and replaced with seven new creations: community development and recreation, economic development, parks and environment, planning and growth management, licensing and standards, public works and infrastructure, and general governance.
If I were a betting man, I’d say Janet Davis gets the community development file, newcomer Gord Perks (probably the most eco-green councillor Toronto has ever elected) will lead the parks and environment, and Kyle Rae heading planning and management. I’d also expect to see Brian Ashton become chair (or vice-chair) of the economic development committee, which seems like a decent fit after he was the political point-man on the Expo 2015 bid (I don’t think we can place blame on Ashton for the bid’s failure). The rumour mill has also pegged Sandra Bussin as the first speaker of the council. We also suspect she’ll find herself leading the licensing and standards committee. Shelley Carroll looks like she’s headed for the budget cheif position, which is not officially a part of the executive committee, but will probably be one of the four councillors at large. After those picks, your guess is as good as mine.
So where do allies like Joe Mihevc, Paula Fletcher, Pam McConnell, Howard Moscoe and Adam Giambrone fit into Miller’s gang of 13? Here’s how I guess it will turn out, but these are wild stabs with a smattering of rationalizations:
The chair of the TTC is not part of the executive committee, but I suspect the chair will end up being one of the extra four councillors chosen. Moscoe has been a lightning rod of criticism and will most certainly not be back to head Toronto’s transit system. Miller now has the excuse to change leadership on the commission without embarrassing Moscoe, his trusted ally. But Moscoe is also one of the best tactical councillors and his skills won’t be tossed aside because he is loud. I’d venture to guess he ends up chairing the public works and infrastructure committee.
So who becomes the new chair of the TTC? It has been assumed 28-year old Adam Giambrone will take it over, as he served as the vice-chair on the commission last term and faced the media on behalf of the commissioners during the TTC wildcat strike this past summer. But some transit observers say he still needs more political clout before taking on the role. Giambrone may be better suited to chair the general governance committee considering his side-career as president of the federal NDP. So if Giambrone is not picked TTC chair (at minimum he’ll certainly return as vice-chair), who is left with enough transit knowledge and clout to lead the TTC? We say Joe Mihevc.
The veteran councillor from mid-town seems like a smart choice. He has paid his dues as a councillor for York and the megacity over the last 15 years, and faced his two stiffest tests in the last term: the St. Clair right-of-way fiasco and John Sewell‘s electoral challenge.
The tone of the streetcar right-of-way (ROW) debate has been poisoned for years now, but Mihevc has been willing to put his neck out on the line politically in the name of the dedicated streetcar lane. Many people, including Sewell and the Save Our St. Clair agitators, predicted Mihevc would face the wrath of the local community in the 2006 election. Instead, Mihevc romped to victory with 58% of the ward’s vote — his ward also had one of the city’s highest voter turnouts with nearly 50% of eligible voters casting their ballot. If this race was a mini-referendum on the ROW, as some have suggested, than the people have spoken.
If any councillor emerged from the November 13th election with more political capital than Mihevc, I have yet to hear about it. Appointing Mihevc chair of the TTC would also serve Miller well. The mayor’s transit platform was all about improving surface routes and creating bus and streetcar ROWs, and what better person to advocate for these important projects than the councillor whose was challenged electorally on the ROW issue?
The TTC chair is not picked by the mayor, but is voted on by members of council. But Miller certainly has the reach to make sure his choice gets the top spot. We hope Mihevc is given chance to shine.
We’d love to hear who you think will fill these top spots on the new council.
photo by Bouke Salverda