July 19, 2015
Municipal Legislation Review
Municipal Elections Act Review
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Local Government Policy Branch 777 Bay St., 13th Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5
Re: Term Limits for Toronto City Councillors
Concerning the current Municipal Legislation Review, part 3 Responsive and Flexible Municipal Government, and perhaps the Municipal Elections Act Review, the following draft legislation for the Toronto Municipal Code is provided for public discussion at a public hearing, once all the submissions from the public have been received by your office and collated for public presentation.
TORONTO MUNICIPAL CODE, CHAPTER 2XX, TERM LIMITS
§ 2XX-1. Public Policy.
It is hereby declared to be the public policy of the city of Toronto to limit to not more than eight consecutive years the time elected officials can serve as mayor or council member so that elected representatives are “citizen representatives” who are responsive to the needs of the people and are not career politicians.
§ 2XX-2. Term Limits.
Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary contained in this Code, no person shall be eligible to be elected to or serve in the office of mayor or council member if that person had previously held such office for two or more full consecutive terms, unless one full term or more has elapsed since that person last held such office; provided, however, that in calculating the number of consecutive terms a person has served, only terms commencing on or after January 1, 2014, shall be counted.
As noted in a recent article for the Toronto Star entitled “History shows that old governments are bad governments”, Robin V. Sears, principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, a partnership of senior practitioners experienced in government advocacy, strategic communications and research for nearly a quarter century, notes:
”…an essential truth: democracy requires change to remain healthy”; and
“The strongest leaders, supported by the most dedicated lieutenants, can juggle these relentless cross-pressures for only a few years before they begin to tire, to cut corners, to make mistakes. After two terms most governments have run out of ideas, energy…”
In further support of legislative two-term limits for Toronto City Councillors are four arguments [John Engle, Heartland Institute, June 2014]:
1. Term Limits restore rotation in office and Citizen Legislature
Without term limits, the temptation to remain in office for life will keep people seeking re-election long after they have accomplished all the legislative good of which they are capable. It does not take long for legislators to become more occupied with their relationships with each other and with lobbyists, than with their constituents.
2. Term Limits make for better elections and empower new leaders and new ideas
Ultimately, old legislators using political machines to retain power do their country and constituents a disservice. Power is best used when it changes hands over time in order to allow for dynamic new solutions to be mooted in a changing world.
3. Term Limits prevent corruption and exploitation in office
Power is highly intoxicating; it can corrupt even the most scrupled individual given enough exposure over time. For this reason, power should not be left in the hands of specific individuals for too long.
4. Term Limits favour action over complacency
When constrained by term limits, legislators must make the most of their limited time in office, resulting in greater prioritization of difficult decisions and reform. Furthermore, the need to constantly fight elections places politicians in the pocket of lobby-groups and election supporters to a greater degree.
After two terms (eight years), new Councillors are required to off-set a bureaucracy that remains largely static, with staff members employed for 10-15-20-25 years (decades), with comfortable, traditional ideas on how things should work, and, who often only relay information gathered from the public to Councillors which staff feel is appropriate, to the extent that, wittingly or unwittingly, important issues from residents are omitted or misrepresented to Councillors. By 2018, 46% of Toronto City Councillors will have served between 15-18 years each (4 to 5 terms) and 16% only one term. With two-term limits, newly elected Councillors will provide new energy, ideas and perspective from the community that will off-set a static bureaucracy (and static Council), as is significantly necessary for Toronto, now the fourth largest City in North America, in order to move forward in the 21st Century as efficiently as possible and in the best interests of the public.
Under two-term limit legislation, after two terms in office, Councillors will re-join the community with an opportunity to update themselves on new areas of interest and otherwise contribute as a member of the community. The two-term limit legislation allows for a former Councillor (or Mayor), who has completed what is viewed as a successful two-terms, to run for office again, providing there is a one-term break in the holding of office as Councillor (or Mayor).
Thank you for your consideration.
cc: Mayor John Tory