Amalgamating the seven municipalities that now constitute the City of Toronto was quite likely the biggest mistake made by the Government of Ontario in modern history. It was hugely unpopular — 76.8 percent of residents opposed amalgamation — and failed to create the projected savings. As I’ve argued in the past, the City of Toronto, as currently constituted, is essentially ungovernable.
The divide between the suburban and urban communities was particularly evident in the election of Rob Ford, but even more so in the wake of his removal from office. Urbanites and suburbanites can’t just get along, because they want fundamentally different things. One size fits all solutions simply won’t work.
Since the news of Mayor Ford’s ouster, I’ve mused about the possibility of a renewed push for de-amalgamation (particularly should Ford return to office in a by-election). To my great surprise, the first stirrings of a de-amalgamation push have come not from the suburbs, but from the city proper. Former Toronto Mayor John Sewell (pre-Megacity) penned a column in today’s Globe & Mail, in which he argued that Toronto needs to move towards de-amalgamation. This was very welcome news. Sewell is one of the foremost authorities on the history of urban planning in both the old City of Toronto, and the rest of the Megacity.
Opposition to the Megacity went dormant post-amalgamation, largely because opponents were sick of fighting a lost battle, and wanted to make the best of a bad situation. The fact that an old soldier in the battle has launched an offensive on the Megacity suggests that there is an appetite for change. After the upcoming by-election — which will almost certainly be the most divisive election the Megacity has faced — I suspect that plenty of people on both sides will be ready for an amicable divorce. That day can’t come soon enough.