News   Jun 14, 2024
 2.4K     1 
News   Jun 14, 2024
 1.7K     1 
News   Jun 14, 2024
 845     0 

What would Toronto be like today if the 1998 amalgamation never happened?

wild goose chase

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Sep 11, 2015
Messages
750
Reaction score
84
Okay, so it's been a bit less than two decades since the "megacity" came to be despite great opposition by all the municipalities who merged, but what if this part of Toronto's history had somehow took a different turn, and no amalgamation took place?

Someone like Rob Ford, for one, would probably have not gotten elected if there was no megacity. Overall, perhaps there would be greater efficiency and less gridlock too, allowing faster development of the city. Would the city of Toronto be advantaged relative to the other municipalities?

What would be different about our city in terms of economics, infrastructure, politics, society, culture or anything else for that matter? Would there be any impact on the provincial or even national scale?

Do you think all-in-all, had Toronto never been amalgamated, it's fate would be very different or not very much?
 
Do you think that had there been no amalgamation, there might have been major differences in what places people chose to live, develop (eg. where to build condos etc.) and work (where jobs are located etc.)?

Or do you think these political boundaries would not have affected such things?
 
Metro Council has jurisdiction over transit, so that file could have easily played out much like it did with amalgamtion. People forget/are unaware that the lower-tier municipalities were not all independent before 1998, but that we had a strong Metro-level government. The two-tier form of government we had was not known for its efficiency, so I am also puzzled where the "greater efficiency" claim comes from.

It's also entirely possible that Metro would have moved in the same direction as Ottawa-Carleton, with an elected Regional Chair (which, in the 1990s, was a widely discussed possibility for Metro, having recently been implemented in Ottawa). So, yes, it's possible that Rob Ford might have been more than just mayor of Etobicoke.
 
Metro Council has jurisdiction over transit, so that file could have easily played out much like it did with amalgamtion. People forget/are unaware that the lower-tier municipalities were not all independent before 1998, but that we had a strong Metro-level government. The two-tier form of government we had was not known for its efficiency, so I am also puzzled where the "greater efficiency" claim comes from.

It's also entirely possible that Metro would have moved in the same direction as Ottawa-Carleton, with an elected Regional Chair (which, in the 1990s, was a widely discussed possibility for Metro, having recently been implemented in Ottawa). So, yes, it's possible that Rob Ford might have been more than just mayor of Etobicoke.

I do wonder though if in part the political rift between the city folks and suburbanites, as exemplified by the disdain Ford Nation had with the perceived downtown "elites" and their bike lanes and all that, would or would not happen if we didn't have amalgamation, with suburbanites and "old city" folks having to share a similar pool of funding. Or would something like that still happen under Metro-level government but less pronounced since the municipalities individually would still get to control and make their own local decisions in some part without then considering the others.
 
Last edited:
In relation to the title of the thread, perhaps municipalities and their boundaries didn't make that much of a difference, after all, based on what I'm reading in this thread, at least about transit funding but maybe other funding decisions too.

Since I'm a former Torontonian living in Chicago, I remember reading or hearing someone talk about how something like Mike Harris' decision for amalgamation that was opposed by all the former "cities" involved would not fly in the US and that unlike Canadian provinces' powers over municipal boundaries, cities stateside can not easily be annexed against their will, and if there's local opposition an American rich suburb or town stands little chance of being merged with a poorer one for the sake of a state saving money like Harris' plans. I don't know if that's true but if it was the case, then perhaps amalgamation didn't make much of a difference anyway for Toronto (don't know about other Canadian cities), since if municipalities' boundaries aren't important enough to resist amalgamation by the province despite strong opposition by each one of them individually, then the municipalities involved aren't that powerful enough to have had drastically different fates under their own control anyway had amalgamation happened or not happened.
 
Last edited:
In relation to the title of the thread, perhaps municipalities and their boundaries didn't make that much of a difference, after all, based on what I'm reading in this thread, at least about transit funding but maybe other funding decisions too.

Since I'm a former Torontonian living in Chicago, I remember reading or hearing someone talk about how something like Mike Harris' decision for amalgamation that was opposed by all the former "cities" involved would not fly in the US and that unlike Canadian provinces' powers over municipal boundaries, cities stateside can not easily be annexed against their will, and if there's local opposition an American rich suburb or town stands little chance of being merged with a poorer one for the sake of a state saving money like Harris' plans. I don't know if that's true but if it was the case, then perhaps amalgamation didn't make much of a difference anyway for Toronto (don't know about other Canadian cities), since if municipalities' boundaries aren't important enough to resist amalgamation by the province despite strong opposition by each one of them individually, then the municipalities involved aren't that powerful enough to have had drastically different fates under their own control anyway had amalgamation happened or not happened.

Cities state side depend how and where their powers are defined. If they have power over their boundaries in the state constitution, then there isn't much the state government can do, unless they can pass an amendment. In Canada, and specifically in Ontario. Cities and Towns are basically just legislated objects of the province, and can be easily created, changed or removed with a simple majority vote by the sitting government.

But to answer your question, what would Toronto be like today if the 1998 amalgamation never happen? I think amalgamation would have been on the table, already happening or at least being discussed. Metro was born out of a compromise between cities and towns not wanting to amalgamation with Toronto, and the province wanting a central municipal authority on planning and urban management of the growing post-war boom of Toronto. Is essences, Metro was a slow moving amalgamation that was inevitable going to become the megacity that we have now. The problem was, the megacity that we have now was born out of bad planning and bad political decisions by the Harries era government that still haunts the city.
 
I do wonder though if in part the political rift between the city folks and suburbanites, as exemplified by the disdain Ford Nation had with the perceived downtown "elites" and their bike lanes and all that, would or would not happen if we didn't have amalgamation, with suburbanites and "old city" folks having to share a similar pool of funding. Or would something like that still happen under Metro-level government but less pronounced since the municipalities individually would still get to control and make their own local decisions in some part without then considering the others.

First, while such rifts exist, I always believed they were somewhat exaggerated by the media, looking for simplistic hooks for their City Hall stories, and by politicians who stood to benefit by such rhetoric. Few residents look at these issues strictly through a downtown or suburban lens (the average person should be give more credit), Council votes usually do not fall along such lines and election results examined by individual polls (rather than ward results) show a more complicated and nuanced picture. Having said that, exaggerated or not, there is nonetheless often a downtown/suburban divide on Council, and I am not sure amalgamation exacerbated it or not. Even had amalgamation not occurred, a lot of the hot-button issues were within Metro jurisdiction (Subways subways subways, Jarvis Street bike lanes, etc.), and we would have had largely the same fights at largely the same intensity. Add to that the usual City politicians blaming Metro for every problem, and vice versa, as was always the case, and you would have very pronounced battles.
 
Is essences, Metro was a slow moving amalgamation that was inevitable going to become the megacity that we have now. The problem was, the megacity that we have now was born out of bad planning and bad political decisions by the Harries era government that still haunts the city.

So, I suppose it would be fairer to say that the issue wasn't if amalgamation took place, but how it did so. If perhaps the municipalities did so gradually and in a more carefully planned way rather than a quick plan to save money by the province, there'd not be so much backlash against amalgamation?
 
So, I suppose it would be fairer to say that the issue wasn't if amalgamation took place, but how it did so. If perhaps the municipalities did so gradually and in a more carefully planned way rather than a quick plan to save money by the province, there'd not be so much backlash against amalgamation?

I think it would be naive for me to say there wouldn't be any backlash if an natural amalgamation occurred by way of the cities annexing each other to form the megacity on their own. Metro itself was a compromise for this backlash by basically pushing the anti-amalgamation arguments down the road for another government to deal with.

So, backlash from citizens would be natural if ones civic pride in their city, town or borough would be wiped out of existence overnight. But in the disdain over the 1998 amalgamation case was a lot more complex. You had a non-binding referendum vote that strongly against amalgamation that was ignored, you had the benefits of the so called amalgamation that no only never materialized, but where really built on lies to make it sound more appealing, and top it off with the problems of "downloading" and you can see the "de-amalgamation" is more of a focal point of these different problems and their angers.

As why has this "de-amalgamation" argument gone on for this long? In my opinion, is the fact that the "pro-megacity", if you will, never has been able to build a strong argument for the benefits of the megacity. Take an Toronto Star Editorial from last summer as a example; they cite that with amalgamation we have "more uniform — and fairer — allocation of urban resources", and the reply to that can be mixed, depending on where you live. And that "Amalgamation also produced power." No it didn't, yes Toronto got some more powers to tax and change speed limits, but that was more of a sorry prize for what the previous government did, something that can be easily taken away with a change of government and a pen stroke.

I think what should happen is an entire rethink from on how the city is governed to what its responsibilities should be, but we should first start with another binding referendum over the megacity should stay or revert back to the old two-tier system. If there are any benefits the megacity has provided that I missed, then the case should be made, because the only way out of this never ending arguments is to give people the option that they have the say, and if people are happy with the megacity, it will be the nail in the coffin for the de-amalgamation groups and we can finally move on.
 

Back
Top