The Ontario minister leading the charge to cut the size of Toronto's city council was put on the spot to explain why his riding has 96 municipal politicians and Canada's largest city will soon have 25.
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, a former Brockville, Ont. mayor who is tasked with working with local governments, spoke to reporters Thursday about the province's controversial move to slash the number of Toronto city councillors during a municipal question.
CBC's Mike Crawley asked about the number of councillors in Leeds–Grenville, the riding Clark represents. The exchange made for some ... interesting television.
Watch the moment below, via CityNews:
"If you want to listen to Twitter, it's 96 [councillors]," Clark said.
"I don't want to listen to Twitter," responded Crawley. "How many municipal politicians are there in Leeds-Grenville?"
"We have, uh, 96."
"Only six?" Crawley asks.
"96, I said," Clark responds.
"96 is correct?"
"I believe so, yes."
Those politicians collectively represent about 70,000 people, according to CityNews, spread over multiple townships. In Toronto, under the new 25-councillor system, the average riding will have a population of 110,000 people, reported the Toronto Star.
The government says it wants to align the number of councillors with the number of MPPs and MPs in the city.
More Ontario politics:
Province will 'listen' to municipalities on council sizes: Clark
Those 96 councillors don't get the $112,000-per-year salary of their counterparts in Toronto, of course. Some, like those in North Grenville's council, earned $18,000-honourariums in 2017, according to the North Grenville Times.
Further pressed on the matter, Clark told reporters that "a number" of municipal councils in the province had undergone governance reviews, and that some of them had "reduced" the number of their councillors.
"That's their decision. They decided that, to make their decision," Clark said, adding that Bill 5 — the original legislation to shrink Toronto's council — was introduced to "provide better local government" in the city.
Clark was later asked if the government has plans to shrink other municipal councils in the province. He said the Progressive Conservative government would would work with and "listen" to municipalities on the issue.
That led CityNews' Cynthia Mulligan to ask why the province didn't listen to Toronto, where there is strong opposition to the government's council cuts.
"We made it very clear that we wanted to have a streamlined council that was ready to work on those important decisions," Clark said.
The government's council-chopping move cleared a major hurdle Wednesday after a weeks-long legal brouhaha that included an overnight legislature session, protests, and condemnation from former prime ministers and legal experts over the province's proposed use of the notwithstanding clause on a new piece of legislation. A panel of judges at the Ontario Court of Appeal granted a stay of a previous ruling that struck down the government's plan.
Premier Doug Ford's government has argued cutting the number of councillors will save taxpayers $25 million and make the council more streamlined. The plan was never mentioned during Ontario's provincial election campaign.
Toronto's election will take place on Oct. 22.