Soon after Toronto council passed a construction dust bylaw and dog tag pilot project, the provincial government considered 14 bills about zebra mussels.
The zebra mussel bills account for about half the legislation considered in the first session under the Progressive Conservative majority government that began July 11.
The NDP’s Gilles Bisson introduced the zebra mussel bills, naming almost every lake and waterway in Ontario as needing to be investigated to determine the extent of the problem, to try and stall Premier Doug Ford’s Bill 5 legislation in August that proposed cutting the number of Toronto wards to 25 from 47.
Despite the apparent inefficiency of his own legislature, Ford has stuck to the assertion that cutting the size of Toronto’s city council mid-election is necessary to ensure the city can get more done faster. It’s a justification Ford used when invoking the notwithstanding clause to override a judge’s ruling that the unexpected ward cuts were unconstitutional, and when holding a midnight session Monday to ram through revised ward-cutting legislation, Bill 31.
The Star took a look at what council was able to achieve in the past two years with 44 councillors, and how that compares to another major Canadian city, and the provincial and federal governments.
From Sept. 2016 to Aug. 2018 there were:
- 56 days of regular council meetings
- 64 items approved per meeting day on average
These numbers from the City of Toronto don’t include decisions made by the four community councils on items such as fence bylaw exemptions and appointments to local boards and business improvement areas.
Items city council considers range in their impact. One day councillors could be voting on relatively mundane items like adjusting street parking rules, permitting pedestrian crosswalks, or protecting heritage properties.
Next, they could be debating items with broad implications, such as the future of the Gardiner Expressway or how best to expand transit.
From Sept. 2016 to Aug. 2018 there were:
- 32 days of regular council meetings
- 18 items approved per meeting day on average
Vancouver, with a population of about 631,000, has 10 councillors. Each councillor represents on average roughly 63,000 residents, similar to Toronto’s current 44 councillors who represent more than 62,000 residents. In a 25-ward system, Toronto councillors would be responsible for more than 109,000 residents on average.
The figures come from the City of Vancouver and Statistics Canada’s 2016 census.
Queen’s Park legislature
From Sept. 2016 under former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne to Aug. 2018 under PC Premier Doug Ford there were:
- 1.6 items carried per session day on average
Not all of the 306 bills were passed into law, but were at the very least successfully introduced into the legislature for further debate. At Queen’s Park, bills have to be carried, or approved, through three readings, the second and third of which include debate. If the majority of MPPs vote in favour of the bill after the third reading and debate, it is presented to the lieutenant-governor for royal assent.
Many of the 306 bills did receive royal assent, while others were only read once or twice, or deferred to a committee. These numbers come from to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and do not include private members’ bills.
With a population of 13.6 million, the province’s laws in theory impact more people than bylaws passed by the city with a population of 2.8 million. For example this summer, an MPP successfully introduced a bill to allow municipalities to ban the sale of handgun ammunition, and the legislature carried a bill through its second reading to end the cap and trade program.
On the other hand, there are the zebra mussel bills, and another bill intended to require organizations to securely attach movable soccer nets to the ground.
As a comparison, the Star also looked at the efficiency of the provincial government when the PCs last held a majority, under former premier Mike Harris. During his first term in office, from September 1995 to May 1999, there were:
- 1.1 items carried per session day on average
House of Commons
Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015 there were:
- 324 days worth of House sessions
- 64 bills passed by the House
- 0.2 items approved per session day on average
Some of the bills passed by the House are currently at the Senate for consideration, or have been passed into law. Bills have to go through three readings before they go to the Senate for final approval. These numbers were provided by a House of Commons spokesperson.
Trudeau’s Liberals operate at a slower pace than when the Conservatives were in power, with the current government passing half the number of bills in its first two years as the government under former prime minister Stephen Harper.
These often sweeping laws, such as amending the Criminal Code to legalize marijuana, take longer to draft, debate and get approved than many provincial laws, or city bylaws.
Trudeau’s government has also passed less complicated bills to do things like respect National Sickle Cell Awareness Day and to recognize Charlottetown, P.E.I., as the birthplace of confederation.
Correction — Sept. 18, 2018: This article was edited from a previous version that mistakenly said Vancouver has 10 councillors representing 10 wards. In fact, the councillors are elected at large.
Samantha Beattie is a city hall reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @samantha_kb