February 9, 2013
TORONTO – More than half of Toronto city council would be turfed next year if a three-term limit was imposed.
Around 25 of the city’s 44 councillors have served more than three terms already or are in the midst of their third term.
Councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Jaye Robinson are proposing slapping a three-term limit on Toronto councillors. Later this month, the two rookie councillors will ask their colleagues to OK a staff report on term limits.
But just asking for the report could be a tough sell to a majority of councillors who — if term limits were imposed — could be cutting their own council careers short.
Admitting it could be a tough sell, Robinson said they chose a three-term limit rather than a two-term limit to make it more “palatable” to councillors.
“I think having experienced City Hall for two years we need to see a change in the culture both within the bureaucracy and within the political wing,” Robinson told the Toronto Sun. “I’m hoping that this, over time, will produce a more productive council.”
The Ward 25-Don Valley West councillor was optimistic they can get councillors to vote in favour of limiting their own time on council.
“I think it is going to be challenging to get councillors on board but we’re hoping the public will (help),” she said.
“Public service is an honour — it is an opportunity to bring your knowledge and your experience to City Hall but it is not a career path. It is simply a calling, it is not a career.”
If term limits were imposed, Robinson believes it would go a long way towards reducing bad blood on council.
“There are trenches at City Hall,” she said. “Over time this might reduce those trenches.”
Veteran Councillor Maria Augimeri said she’s against term limits and argued they imply that councillors are corruptible.
“That’s one of the reasons they have term limits in the (U.S.) because they assume that you’re corruptible the longer you stay,” she said. “It doesn’t seem very democratic.”
First-term Councillor Ana Bailao said it would be healthy to bring new people into the job.
“There are sometimes good councillors that stay there for a long time but I think it is something worth looking at,” Bailao said. “I think three terms, it’s a fair amount of time.”
Councillor Karen Stintz — who is serving her third term on council — said she’ll support the motion for the report.
“It is something we can look at in terms of making our system more accessible to new people that want to run but fundamentally a term is for four years and everybody has to run at the end,” Stintz said. “Incumbents have the advantage there is no question but, as someone who beat an incumbent, it can be done.”
Deputy mayor Doug Holyday said the term limits debate should be part of a bigger discussion on restructuring council — reducing the number of councillors to match the federal and provincial ridings in the city and creating an executive council of two councillors per district (eight councillors in total).
“We’ve had people (at City Hall) that should never have been there for a day that have been there for years,” Holyday said.
He predicted any term limits would likely have to be grandfathered to garner enough support among current councillors and to ensure an orderly transition.
“To wipe out well over half of council in one fell swoop might not be the right thing to do,” Holyday said.
Here’s the 25 councillors who have either already served at least three terms or are in the midst of their third term:
1. Paul Ainslie*
2. Maria Augimeri
3. Shelley Carroll
4. Raymond Cho
5. Janet Davis
6. Glenn De Baeremaeker
7. Mike Del Grande
8. Frank Di Giorgio
9. John Filion
10. Paula Fletcher
11. Mark Grimes
12. Doug Holyday
13. Norm Kelly
14. Gloria Lindsay Luby