THE BLOG

Move Over Rob Ford: How I'd Restore Civility in City Hall

03/14/2014 12:30 EDT | Updated 05/14/2014 05:59 EDT

I have not made a career out of party politics.

For the last 20 years, Toronto municipal politics has been my focus. Politics at the municipal level is so drastically different than any other level of government in this country -- and that's a good thing. It's possible to put rational policy in front of partisan interests. At least, it should be.

I have always focused on municipal politics because I love this city and I want to help Toronto reach its full potential. As I campaign to become Toronto's mayor, one of my goals is to reform the very system I hope to lead. Not in my own image, or to suit my own needs. I want to reform City Council so it better serves the people it represents.

As mayor, I will move to adopt ranked ballots, a model that would help to unite our divided city by rewarding candidates with a broad appeal within the electorate. Too much of our current political discourse is spent on negativity, or pitting councillors against one another. Ranked ballots would help eliminate this rancor, fostering a more positive political environment. Ever wonder why political parties choose leaders this way? It's because ranked ballots help maintain a certain level of civility that has been AWOL from Toronto politics for quite some time.

I also know that Toronto is not the same city it was ten years ago. Toronto has grown and its demographics and neighbourhoods have changed. That's why I support measures that would ensure ward redistribution before the 2018 election. The current ward boundaries were set more than a decade ago and Toronto has changed drastically since then. It's urgent that our ward boundaries change to better serve the neighborhoods that have grown significantly in the interim. We must offer fair representation within council, or risk further disenfranchising those whose voices are drowned out by the current disparity.

These are the steps we can take as a city to make sure our government serves us all, and to create a council that works for Toronto, instead of isolating power with a select few.

Rob Ford's Executive Committee contains no women, no critics and has no representation from Toronto-East York. Under the current system it is the Mayor who nominates all of the positions to Executive Committee, essentially facilitating the creation of a dominant political party where there should be none, and ensuring that conflicting viewpoints are muted and suppressed.

As mayor, I will lead a discussion to amend the City Administration By-Law so that the four at-large positions on the Executive are set aside for councillors from each of the City's four Community Councils: Scarborough, Etobicoke-York, Toronto-East York, North York. Those community councils would elect their representative for a two year term on the Executive. Only those councillors not already serving as Standing Committee Chairs would be eligible for nomination. This would guarantee that no part of our great city goes unrepresented or unheard.

Increasingly over the last several years, council has become a place of disarray and dysfunction. I want to lead this city because I know there is work to do, and it won't get done if we choose politics over good policy.

When I represented Scarborough at City Hall, I made a point of defining myself by my willingness to work constructively with people I strongly disagreed with. I didn't operate that way just because it's the decent and professional thing to do -- although it's both -- I operated that way because it's the only effective way to get things done.

Toronto is so much greater than the mere sum of its parts, so why don't we work together to make sure that gets reflected at City Hall?

To learn more about my ideas for reform, visit my web site at Soknacki2014.com/yourcity

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