Municipal government of Toronto

Toronto City Council Mayor of Toronto Politics of Toronto
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City of Toronto
Toronto, City of.svg
MottoDiversity Our Strength
FormationJanuary 1, 1998; 22 years ago (1998-01-01)
Merger of
TypeMunicipal government
HeadquartersToronto City Hall
  • 100 Queen Street West
    Toronto, Ontario
    M5H 2N2
John Tory
City Manager
Chris Murray
Main organ
Toronto City Council
$13 billion (operating budget; 2018)

The Corporation of the City of Toronto, or simply the City of Toronto, is the public corporation that serves as the government of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its operations are governed by the elected Toronto City Council, under the rules set out in the City of Toronto Act. The mayor of Toronto is John Tory. Day-to-day operations of the government are managed by the city manager, a public servant, under the direction of the mayor and council. The mayor is a member of council and is also responsible for organizing council and running council meetings. The government employs over 35,000 public servants directly, as well as affiliated agencies such as the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Transit Commission. Its operating budget was CA$13 billion in 2018, including over $1 billion for police services.

Administration and governance

As the City of Toronto is constituted by, and derives its powers from, the province of Ontario, it is a "creature of the province" and is legally bound by various regulations and legislation of the Ontario Legislature, such as the City of Toronto Act, Municipal Elections Act, Planning Act, and others.[3]

The City of Toronto Act lays down the division of powers, responsibilities and required duties of the corporation. It provides that if the City appoints a chief administrative officer (the city manager), than that person shall be responsible for the administrative management and operation of the City.[4]

The Toronto Public Service By-law (TPS By-law), Chapter 192 of Toronto's municipal code, further strengthens the separation of the administrative components (the public service) and the political components (mayor and council) of the City of Toronto.[5]

In general, the mayor and council determines the services provided to residents and develops programs and policies, and the public service implements council's decisions.[3]

City Council

City Council is the legislative body of the City of Toronto. The council is composed of 25 city councillors (representing a ward of around 96,800 people each) along with the mayor. Elections are held every four years, in October, and the mayor and councillors are ultimately accountable to Torontonians.

The mayor of Toronto, currently John Tory, serves as the political head of the City of Toronto.

The City Council is the only power able to enact Toronto laws, known as "by-laws", which govern the actions of the corporation and/or matters within its jurisdiction, such as administration of the Canadian Criminal Code within its borders.[6]

The Council also forms several committees, including the Board of Health and "Community Councils" which hear matters relating to narrower, district issues, such as building permits and developments requiring changes to zoning by-laws. Community Council decisions, as well as those of the mayor, must be approved by council at regular sessions.[3]

Toronto public service

The Toronto public service is responsible for providing politically neutral advice to council, and delivering services to the City's residents. The number of directly employed public servants was 35,771 in September 2019, which does not include affiliated agencies.[7]

The city manager (formerly the chief administrative officer), who reports to the mayor and council, is the administrative head of the City of Toronto. While the city manager and public service are ultimately accountable to council, the council may not give specific direction to public servants, and members of the council do not manage the day-to-day operations of the City.[4] The following senior staff report to the city manager:[8]

City officials reporting directly to council:

The following officials report to council for statutory purposes, but the city manager for administrative purposes:


The City of Toronto represents the fifth-largest municipal government in North America. It has two budgets: the operating budget, which is the cost of operating programs, services, and the cost of governing; and the capital budget, which covers the cost of building and the upkeep of infrastructure. The City's capital budget and plan for 2019–2028 is CA$40.67 billion.[9]

Under the City of Toronto Act, the Toronto government cannot run a deficit for its annual operating budget.[10] The city's revenues include 33% from property tax, 6% from the land transfer tax, subsidies from the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, and the rest from other revenues and user fees.[9]

City Council has set the limit of debt charges not to exceed 15% of the property tax revenues.[11] The city has an AA credit rating from Standard & Poor's, and an Aa1 credit rating from Moody's.[12][13][14] Toronto's debt stood at $3.9 billion at the end of 2016.[15] Capital expenditures are 39% funded from debt.[15]


The City of Toronto was incorporated in 1834, succeeding York, which was administered directly by the then-province of Upper Canada. The new city was administered by an elected council, which served a one-year term. The first mayor, chosen by the elected councillors, was William Lyon Mackenzie. The first law passed was "an Act for the preventing & extinguishing of Fires".[16] The first mayor directly elected to the post was Adam Wilson, elected in 1859. Through 1955 the term of office for the mayor and council was one year; it then varied between two and three years until a four-year term was adopted starting in 2006. (See List of Toronto municipal elections.)

To finance operations, the municipality levied property taxes. In 1850, Toronto also started levying income taxes.[17] Toronto levied personal income taxes until 1936, and corporate income taxes until 1944.[18]

Until 1914, Toronto grew by annexing neighbouring municipalities such as Parkdale and Seaton Village. After 1914, Toronto stopped annexing bordering municipalities, although some municipalities overwhelmed by growth requested it. After World War II, an extensive group of suburban villages and townships surrounded Toronto. Change to the legal structure came in 1954, with the creation of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (known more popularly as "Metro") in 1954. This new regional government, which encompassed Toronto and the smaller communities of East York, Etobicoke, Forest Hill, Leaside, Long Branch, Mimico, New Toronto, North York, Scarborough, Swansea, Weston and York, was created by the Government of Ontario to support suburban growth. This new municipality could borrow money on its own for capital projects and it received taxes from all municipalities including Toronto, which meant that the Toronto tax base was now available to support the suburban growth. The new regional government built highways, water systems and public transit, while the thirteen townships, villages, towns, and cities continued to provide some local services to their residents. To manage the yearly upkeep of the new infrastructure, the new regional government levied its own property tax, collected by the local municipalities.[19]

On January 1, 1967, several of the smaller municipalities were amalgamated with larger ones, reducing their number to six. Forest Hill and Swansea became part of Toronto; Long Branch, Mimico, and New Toronto joined Etobicoke; Weston merged with York, and Leaside amalgamated with East York. This arrangement lasted until 1998, when the regional level of government was abolished and Etobicoke, North York, East York, York, and Scarborough were amalgamated into Toronto the "megacity". Mel Lastman, the long-time mayor of North York before the amalgamation, was the first mayor (62nd overall) of the new "megacity" of Toronto, which is the successor of the previous City of Toronto.[19]

Existing by-laws of the individual municipalities were retained until such time that new citywide by-laws could be written and enacted. New citywide by-laws have been enacted, although many of the individual differences were continued, applying only to the districts where the by-laws applied, such as winter sidewalk clearing, and garbage pickup. The existing city halls of the various municipalities were retained by the new corporation. The City of York's civic centre became a court office. The existing 1965 City Hall of Toronto became the city hall of the new megacity, while Metro Hall, the "city hall" of the Metro government is used as municipal office space.




  1. ^ "Looking back on the birth of a megacity — 20 years later: Micallef | The Star". Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  2. ^ "History of City Symbols". City of Toronto. August 16, 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Introduction to Toronto's Government" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b "Memorandum from City Manager and City Solicitor to Mayor and Council RE: Notice of Motion MM11.9" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Toronto Public Service By-Law". City of Toronto. August 24, 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  6. ^ "City of Toronto Act, 2006". Government of Ontario. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  7. ^ "Workforce Statistics". City of Toronto. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  8. ^ "Administrative Structure" (PDF).
  9. ^ a b "Budget 2017 Charts". City of Toronto. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  10. ^ "Toronto's Budget: A Decoder". Retrieved January 20, 2014.
  11. ^ "capital_financing.pdf" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 10, 2014. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
  12. ^ Moloney, Paul (June 27, 2011). "Toronto debt $4.4B and rising". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 12, 2011.
  13. ^ "Toronto (City of)". Standard & Poor's Ratings Services. McGraw Hill Financial. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  14. ^ Heitmann, Kathrin. "Toronto, City of". Moody's. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  15. ^ a b "2015 Annual Report" (PDF). City of Toronto. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 30, 2017. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  16. ^ "Toronto in 1834". City of Toronto. Archived from the original on October 3, 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  17. ^ An Act to establish a more equal and just system of Assessment in the several Townships, Villages, Towns and Cities in Upper Canada, S.Prov.C. 1850, c. 67, s. 4
  18. ^ John Sewell (April 2011). "Letter". The Walrus. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  19. ^ a b Sewell 2009.