What new powers do cities need?
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. The Covid-19 Factor: Highlighting the Limitations of City Authorities and Powers
The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the difficulties facing municipalities in meeting the needs of residents given the powers and authorities at their disposal. Mayor Marianne Meed Ward and Richard Albert give examples from Burlington, Ontario, and Austin, Texas, where local attempts to introduce mask bylaws and social distancing orders have been superseded by orders from provincial and state governments. In Burlington, because it wasn’t within the municipality’s power to impose a mask bylaw, the local government had to re-imagine and re-interpret legislation and attach a mandatory mask requirement to business licencing. Says Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward, “The arrangement that municipalities have within the federation isn’t working. It hasn’t worked for a very long time. And we can’t wait any longer. Now that we have this pandemic, we have seen how devastating it can be [for municipalities not to be recognized as an equal order of government].”
2. Charter Cites: A Pathway to Municipal Autonomy
Doug Earl argues that the challenges facing municipalities long precede the COVID-19 pandemic. “The truth is that cities have no powers. It’s not a question that cities have some powers and they need more powers. It’s that they don’t have any powers under our Constitution when it comes to municipal affairs.” He cites examples from Ontario, where the provincial government has cut the size of Toronto’s city council, changed and cancelled LRT routes in Mississauga and Hamilton, made changes to land use planning, and cut provincial contributions to municipalities. In response, a city charter would write down what powers, responsibilities, authorities, resources and protections a city has. He suggests a pathway to achieving it is through a single province constitutional amendment (Section Forty-Three amendment).
3. Re-Think the Allocation of Powers: Provincial Constitutions
Richard Albert proposes an alternative that would not require a constitutional amendment: provincial constitutions. The Canadian Constitution authorizes Provinces to create, codify, and formalise their own constitutions. In this process, he suggests, a Province could devolve new powers to municipalities in one-size-fits-all or targeted ways. This is possible “without having to get the approval of the Parliament of Canada through Section Forty-Three [and] without having to risk run the risk of being held hostage in those negotiations. Let the premier do it in consultation with the mayors.”
4. The Edmonton City Charter File: From Negotiation to Dissolution
According to Julianna Charchun, the last ten years of intergovernmental negotiations about a city charter in Edmonton has seen the involvement of three provincial governments, multiple Premiers, and three memorandums of understanding. Most recently, ten months of intensive negotiations led to a fiscal framework tying new infrastructure dollars to the provincial economy (acknowledging the critical role that cities play in provincial and federal economies), a negotiated list of policy tools and powers for cities, and a negotiated pot of money for the Edmonton Region. However, following the provincial election, “[In the] first budget, city charters disappeared. The fiscal framework was gone. And the new framework for all municipalities is not anywhere close to what we negotiated. There was no engagement or conversation, or even, frankly, a heads up that that was going to happen. So that’s where we stand after about a decade of work.”
5. Cities are leading the charge
Says Charchun, regardless of the powers and authorities at their disposal, cities are going ahead and leading the charge on the biggest challenges facing our cities. For example, in Edmonton, local government has made it a priority to tackle homelessness. “It’s not our jurisdiction and it’s not what property taxes were meant to do. But we feel so compelled. It has been unanimously endorsed by city council time and time again…It doesn’t matter that the provincial government is responsible and that the federal government has the money, people expect us to do something about it and we expect ourselves to do something about it.” She emphasizes the importance of aligning around priorities across orders of government going forward.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary W. Rowe [00:00:12] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute, really, really pleased to welcome you to another instalment of City Talk. We are in Edmonton all week, which is a fantastic thing. We’re doing residencies, virtual residences. We wish we were there physically with our friends in Edmonton, but we’re actually virtually there meeting with all sorts of stakeholders and groups and experts and citizens and community groups and residents to talk to us about what’s working in Edmonton, what’s not and what’s next. And as you can see, we have someone from the office, Julianna Charchun, who is going to be talking specifically about a very particular topic that these other folks are gathered to to start to wrestle with with us. But I just wanted to acknowledge that we are actually physically in Edmonton and I’ll leave this city talk and I will go back into live sessions with Edmontonians through the rest of the week. And then next week we’re doing the same live in Calgary. So it’s basically Alberta all the time here for the Canadian Urban Institute, which is important. One of the reasons that we chose to go to Alberta cities first is that we had a strong sense that the cities there were in this is covid. They were struggling with a number of challenges, economic downturns, all sorts of opportunities to reinvent and revitalise their economies into a more kind of diverse mix of things. So all sorts of challenges around climate and environment and diversity, a whole bunch of things. And I was with you actually, I don’t remember. We were together a year ago this week. And and I really had a strong sense that we would start the national residency programme in these two cities because of their prophetic value to the country, because they had a jump start a number of these towns. Little did we know that four months later we’d be in a global pandemic.
Mary W. Rowe [00:02:01] And so all of those lessons are turning out to be hyper important as we all struggle together and try to make sense of what COVID’s impact is on our cities and what it’s going to do to in terms of what the future of our cities will look like. So I’m just plugging that we’re in Edmonton, and then I hope you’ll follow us on social media to keep track of all that work, because it’s really, really informative and interesting. And so CUI is coming to a town near you soon.
Mary W. Rowe [00:02:26] We hope so. Today we’re talking about a really fundamental question, which is surfaced again and again and again. We’ve been talking about covid as a particle accelerator, making every disconnection or dysfunction in an urban environment either worse or more intense or quicker. And sure enough, powers for cities is certainly something that I’m talking about every day, all day. And I know my colleagues are here, too. And so we felt it was important that we bring some really studied, thoughtful expertise into the room to talk about what powers do cities really need and how has Covid, in essence, shone a really bright light on that.
Mary W. Rowe [00:03:06] As you know, CUI remains in the connective tissue business. We have constituents all across the country. I’m in Toronto today and you can see I’m sitting here basking in the sun, which I’m so happy to have in December.
Mary W. Rowe [00:03:20] I’m on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, Chippewa, the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples, which is home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Metis people across Turtle Island. Treaties that are covered in Toronto are Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit and and the Williams treaty, which was signed with multiple Annishnabec nations. And we continue to struggle with what the legacy of exclusion has looked like in urbanism and how we continue to perpetuate that and how we need to change the way that we engage, who we’re engaging with, who’s leading, who’s actually participating in remaking, reimagining and revitalising urban environments. Really pivotal moment for us. And I think the pandemic has just made this so much clearer to all of us. Can it, as our cities go, Canada go, and we’re making that case in all the different domains in which we work.
Mary W. Rowe [00:04:17] Everyone knows that we tape this and the video will be posted live for people to be able to refer to afterwards so you can send to your friends and watch in the middle of the night. We actually know a lot of people do that. So that’s great. We’re also seeing lots of academics are using city talks as a material for classes. And I think another thing we’re observing is that we need a deeper bench, folks.
Mary W. Rowe [00:04:39] We need more and more people engaging in what it takes to build a city: planners, architects, designers, social workers, artists, business folks.
Mary W. Rowe [00:04:47] And so the more that we can engage younger folks in this discourse with us, the better. And so if you can share a city, talk with a teenager in your life or a young student in your life, that would be great. And we are assisted by volunteers across the country, many of whom are students who help us put these things together, write the right summaries and all that kind of stuff. So if you’ve got bandwidth and capacity to volunteer with a city with a CUI and particular city
Mary W. Rowe [00:05:12] I would love to hear from you, as you know, just email us and we will be back to you with a really lovely task that we would be delighted to engage you with.
Mary W. Rowe [00:05:22] So joining us from Toronto, Doug Earl, former journalist now and teacher and a longtime advocate on city charters and other kinds of mechanisms, Mayor Marianne Meed Ward, the mayor of Burlington. Richard Albert, and he tells me he’s an unpatriotic Canadian and will repatriate you somehow. Richard, who eventually found himself in Texas. And there he has stayed. But as I said, we’ll find a way to bring you back sometime, Richard. And who is really whose lifeblood is thinking about constitutions. Just just think about that for a moment, folks.
Mary W. Rowe [00:06:00] Richard’s a person excited about constitutions, and then Julianna Charchun or Julie, as we all know, who is in Iverson’s office and has been on the front lines literally while she’s been on the front lines managing COVID response. And I just want to acknowledge that we are aware that there are parts of Canada who are besieged by covid. We took these conversations on early in April, cognisant at that point that many people were preoccupied keeping people in saving lives. And then we had a bit of a respite as we kind of acclimated and now we’re back into crisis mode. So I do not want to be insensitive to the challenges that the city of Edmonton, the city of Calgary and different parts could be in western cities here in Toronto as well, are coping. So, Julie, we appreciate you taking time as you’re putting out all those fires to also come and talk to us about this.
Mary W. Rowe [00:06:45] So I’m actually going to start, if I can, with our host, Julie, to talk about the perspective from a city like Edmonton about why do you need different powers? What is wrong with the deal you’ve got?
Julianna Charchun [00:06:59] Thanks, Mary, and I want to acknowledge I do remember that conversation that we had and thank you for following through in spite of everything, it’s wonderful to have you here in Edmonton. We really appreciate this spotlight on the city. I guess I’ll start with what’s what’s top of mind, which is the Covid pandemic. And as we know, it’s laid to bear a number of Craxton in the very unknown range of systems.
Julianna Charchun [00:07:24] And one of those is is sort of our municipal powers and tools and capacity. And and so what we’re experiencing here in Alberta, and I recognise it’s not the same across the country, but here in Alberta, the ability for Edmonton and Calgary as examples to actually respond nimbly to this pandemic is very challenged. We have the power to enter into a state of local emergency, which frankly was written probably at a time that didn’t consider a global pandemic, to be fair. But it gives us the ability to do things like cut down trees and move cattle without permission. But as you can imagine, not particularly helpful in this context. And I’m being a bit glib. There are a couple of things in in the state of emergency in our soul powers that that might be considered useful, such as being able to limit the movement of people, for example, but that in and of itself, that that power isolated without data. We don’t have access to the data that the provincial government has. For example, we don’t have our own public health independent advice. So we’re really we’re really highly dependent on the provincial government to be making decisions on behalf of the city and behalf of on behalf of the whole province. And, of course, there is inherent tensions in how they’re going to take approaches, whether those are regional and whatnot. But I think what we’re seeing now is what you saw in Edmonton, in Calgary, for example, over the summer was introducing mandatory bylaws in public spaces. So that was one thing that we were able to do, which I think was a really, really key step. The province here just recently followed up with mandatory masks in the Edmonton region, in the workplace. But other than that, we’re looking at what our businesses are saying to us, can you can you look at mandatory closure of some businesses, for example? Because the only way for them to access the recent federal top-up that was just announced by the federal government is if they are actually mandated to close. So, you know, for us to do that, this is just an initial look for us to do that would require us probably to use powers in the Municipal Government Act that have never been tested for this purpose. And and it puts us in a very precarious position legally to have to go there. So, you know, frankly, we feel a little bit helpless at times. And it’s it’s really difficult, I would suggest to you to for municipal leaders who just feel like they want to be able to do more to support business and to support individuals and stop the spread. But our powers are clearly very limited in this respect. Ma
Julianna Charchun [00:10:23] I mean, the other thing is what we’ve seen I’m going to come to you and work next. But the other thing that we’ve seen generally is that municipal governments across the country.
Mary W. Rowe [00:10:32] Because you had to I mean, there wasn’t no municipal employee was standing on the corner of looking at a park that had homeless people in it or a shelter that could they couldn’t keep up and save. Nobody was sitting there saying, oh, well, whose jurisdiction is this again?
Mary W. Rowe [00:10:47] You know, I we we’ve all been watching it in real time. We have a whole programme that I’m sure city choppers have checked out. City Watch Canada.
Mary W. Rowe [00:10:54] That’s where we track municipal government action in sixty two cities across the country because we wanted to see how who was adjusting and all the things you had to just basically be a delayed government for nine months. And then it’s put you into a financial constraint across the country. Even though you have different arrangements with the provinces, it puts you into a fiscally really tenuous position. And I even before that, you and I have these conversations long before covid about there are particular challenges in municipal in cities that a municipal government understands better than anybody else are working in your with your community. You understand better what you need.
Mary W. Rowe [00:11:33] And the dilemma is that that any resources that come to you and often policies that you have to implement are either drawn by the province or drawn by the federal government. And by the time they trickle down to you, they may or may not fit. Right.
Julianna Charchun [00:11:47] So one hundred percent, you know, we’re grateful for the safe restart agreement that we finally got in place earlier this year. That was hard work. I mean, I think we were working 18 hour days lobbying hard along with everyone else. And, you know, and frankly, mayors felt like what we understand, that there’s a whole whole range of stakeholders that need support from the federal government and the provincial governments. And we sort of tried to wait our turn and a sort of respectful kind of a way. And in the end, it ended up being a bit of a fight. But truthfully, like our transit systems, like it’s just so apparent now that when Covid hit and we had to shut down transit need to shut down rec centres, we immediately here in the city of Edmonton, we quite rapidly laid off a number of staff on a temporary basis, which helped to sort of stop the bleeding. But it wasn’t enough and it won’t be enough. And so, yes, we’re facing across the country shortfalls at the municipal level in terms of our operating and frankly, the safe restart agreement. We see it as 1.0 and we’re already talking to the federal government about what’s safe restart 2.0 is going to need to look like. But the fact that we’re in this sort of space of needing a bailout.
Julianna Charchun [00:13:10] Is, I think, says it all.
Mary W. Rowe [00:13:14] Yeah, I mean, I’m going to come to you now, Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. I mean, the frustrating thing, of course, is that cities needing a bailout is just kind of crazy if you’re a stakeholder next to the arts community or some other sector. And I think that’s the dilemmas that the federal government or even the general population would see municipal governments as kind of well get in line as opposed to being in equal order of government, which is the focus of this conversation, which I’m going to go to Doug and Richard to speak on an equal order of government.
Mary W. Rowe [00:13:42] And that’s the dilemma, that perception is not widely held. So, Marianne, tell us your perspective and from a position of Burlington and also just give people a little bit of a picture of what you’ve been coping with through Covid and then why this discussion is so important to you.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward [00:13:57] Certainly, you know, you touched on it Mary Rowe. There has been a conversation that started a long time ago. And I credit Doug and the folks at charter cities for saying, look, the arrangement that municipalities have within the federation really isn’t working, hasn’t worked for a very long time. And we’re just now saying it can’t wait any longer. And now that we have this pandemic, we have seen how devastating it can be. And Julie brings up the the mask. I think that’s kind of ground zero for as an example of what really doesn’t work. We did not when we investigated early on, could we even impose a mask bylaw? The province wasn’t doing it at the time. The federal government wasn’t doing it at the time. But we were certainly hearing from our residents do something. And that’s probably the key. The key thing I’ve heard throughout covid is do something. And then we would bump up against, well, we actually don’t have the power to do that. And so that’s the essence of pretty much every conversation through covid-19. But with masks, we said, well, we’ve been told we can’t do anything. And then but that wasn’t good enough. That wasn’t good enough for our residents and it wasn’t good enough for us. So we had to kind of twist and turn our way around, kind of torture and twist legislation and and reimagine and interpret it. Because as Julie said earlier, it absolutely was not written even recently. But more importantly, it wasn’t written with a global pandemic that comes around once in a in a generation or two. So we attached it to our business licencing. And I would credit places like Toronto for leading the way. You know, somebody had to sort of put a team of lawyers on it to see how we could do it. And we all just said, OK, if they’ve figured it out, we’re just going to take that and do it. And so then there was this cascade, this domino effect in Ontario of municipality after municipality and within days, just taking what what had been vetted by another larger municipality with more resources. And really that should have two things should have been led at a higher level for consistency. And eventually the province about two weeks ago got around to instituting a mandatory bylaw. But the other thing is, you know, municipalities took that on the chin. I can tell you, I had as many people sending me what are you thinking? Emails as I did saying thank you for protecting us. And that is also the nature of governing in a pandemic that positions, views, perspectives in the community are very divided. And so there’s an incentive for another level of government who has the power to act, not to step into that. Let the municipalities where that. And so there was some of that, too. But that’s just one trying to help our businesses out. We we found a way to give them a grant programme without running afoul of municipal bonuses. But I mean, we think we’re on the right side of that. But again, we had to sort of creatively interpret the language. We sent letters to the minister saying this is what we’re doing. So we don’t think we’re on the wrong side. So please don’t interpret it that way. But it does really limit your ability to be to be agile, as as Julie said earlier, to be fast and speed is the key ingredient. When you’re dealing with a pandemic, you can’t wait around. And we know what’s best. We’re hearing it from our residents. And and we were really handcuffed so that, you know, I’m a silver lining person. I’m an optimist. The benefit that will come out of this is that the back burner of we need a new relationship for cities in the federation has now become a very front front burner issue, a burning platform to say no. We’ve learnt for public health and safety and a whole host of other reasons. Municipalities need to be their own order of government, not something that, quite frankly, the province could eliminate with the stroke of a pen any day of the week that they chose to do so.
Mary W. Rowe [00:17:59] Yeah, I mean, I’ve been very blunt with my colleagues about this, that if we can we’ve been some people have been saying this for so long. Cities need to be there on order of government. But if Covid. Haggling becomes the basis upon which you say, if we were our own order of government, fewer people would have died. Yep, I know the level of discourse can happen, for instance, if you take housing, they’re one of the frustrations that I have as a regular person walking on the street is that I don’t know who to hold accountable for the fact that we’ve got so many homeless people on the street and that there is no housing. And if you try to hold particular order government accountable, you’ve screwed up. They will say, no, no, no. It’s you know, and it’s very frustrating to then you can imagine from a taxpayers point of view, then who do you hold accountable for? Right. And that’s, I think, the moment we’re at now. The question is, are we at a moment where we can start to have a serious conversation about a.k.a. the C word, which is the Constitution? And that’s right. And whether or not the charter and what are what are the mechanisms. So I’m going to go to you next, if I can, and then I’ll come to you, Richard, for an academic perspective and give us some broader perspective on other practises. But, Doug, you’ve been at the centre of the charter movement and you’re not actually an urban planner. You’re not a person who came up through the ranks. You’re a you’re a regular guy.
Doug Earl [00:19:24] Well, that’s right. I was a journalist. But, you know, early in my career, I worked in the Northwest Territories during a period of time where the Northwest Territories went from a jurisdiction that was run by fiat, by a federal commissioner, essentially a deputy minister, to the point where it developed self-government. So I was a front row participant in that process. And I see a lot of parallels with what’s going on in cities across the country as as they come to terms with the lack of power that they have to do the the things that they need to do. You know, it’s funny in terms of covid, there was a story here this week or in the last week or so where there was a restaurant in Etobicoke that had decided to resist the Covid restrictions and remain open. And there was a kind of a two day period where people wanted to do something about that, but they really couldn’t figure out who was responsible and what powers people had. The city of Toronto, which is responsible, you know, in non Covid times for sort of the health and restaurants, making sure that people can dine safely, wanted to close this restaurant down, but it found that it didn’t have the power to do that, that it couldn’t go to court and seek an injunction that would have caused the restaurant to close immediately. And what it had to do ultimately was go to the province and ask the province to go to court to get this injunction going. So it’s just a little micro example of the kind of thing, you know, that folks are talking about here. And it’s emblematic of this bigger problem that we have. You know, you ask what new powers cities should have. And the truth is that cities have no powers. So it’s not a question that cities have some powers and they need more powers. It’s that they don’t have any under our Constitution when it comes to municipal affairs, provinces have all the power and municipalities have none. So anything a city does in its day to day activities, any tax power or regulatory powers or enforcement powers, or even the ability to provide any programme or service, they’re wielding political power that’s been lent or delegated to them by the province. And because that’s the case, it means the province can also take any or all of those powers away at any time or dictate how those powers will be used. Or in this new covid wrinkle, they can decide not to assert their power and leave the municipalities on their own. So, you know, in Ontario, we’ve had many, many examples of this, particularly over the past couple of years, where the provincial government has slashed Toronto City Council. It’s revoked the power of municipalities to use ranked ballots in their election. It’s unilaterally changed the route of LRT and Mississauga and Council one in Hamilton. You know, it’s reinstated old rules for land use appeals using secretive, unappealable ministerial zoning orders to pre-empt local planning, slashed provincial contributions to municipalities. So so it’s certainly not just Covid, although covid has showed this up, but it’s right across the board that cities do not have the authority and the power and the jurisdiction they need in order to implement the responsibilities that they’ve been given. And that’s why we are suggesting a city charter which would write down what powers and responsibilities and authority and resources and protections a city would have. And then that city charter would in turn be constitutionally protected through a single province amendment. It’s very easy to get and I can talk more about that. But that that’s the basic idea. That’s the mechanism that we’re suggesting in order to overcome this problem and give us a focal point around which we can talk about what powers cities need and once they get them, how to protect them from being. Taken away by the next government.
Mary W. Rowe [00:23:21] I just want to acknowledge that there are lots of really smart folks on the Chatbox who have been active in this discourse for a while. Very happy to see all of you. My lots of my colleagues here active in the city charter movement and city power movement and what’s going to go on and how that affects digital and various things. But one of the points that people are raising is that a charter is a tool that the charter can potentially not it could be not well used or it could have the wrong things in it. Or and I want to I’m going to come to you, Richard, next, because the other thing is that I was old enough to remember when the City of Toronto Act was being developed. And I think there are people who would say that there are powers within the City of Toronto Act that the city of Toronto was elected not to use. So that is a dilemma, too. So, Richard, I’m going to come to you. And I also just want to clarify for everybody, if this is a new conversation to you, charters and new powers for cities, just bear with us. But remember, people here are talking about city. They’re talking about the municipal government. They’re not talking about all the other actors. That populous city we’re talking about. We’re talking about the municipal government when we talk about a city charter. OK, Richard Overton, you give us a give us some perspective. The Texas Longhorn, I see that decal on the back of your wall there.
Richard Albert [00:24:36] But you see do you see this, though? This is what you have to notice first before they really Zoom in.
Mary W. Rowe [00:24:40] What is that, some maple leaf. Hello.
Richard Albert [00:24:44] Thanks so much for having me. This is really exciting. It’s an important subject. And, you know, one of the things that I’ve really been thinking about is how the COVID-19 pandemic has really put pressure on federal arrangements, not only in Canada but around the world. And so if you just look at the worst hit places around the world, most of them are federations. And that’s not a surprise because partly they’re big populous countries. But in other in other ways, it’s that there’s tensions between the national government and the subnational governments, but also the municipal governments. And so there is a great tension that’s being played out right now that’s going to have to cause us to rethink the allocation of powers in multilevel governments, by which I mean federal systems and also the European systems where there is a supranational level of government.
Richard Albert [00:25:38] But back to the question about you’re making me nervous there because I’m assuming that a republic is still a federation, I guess, and they’re not doing so well below us.
Mary W. Rowe [00:25:45] But but I think what you’re suggesting is that if there are multiple jurisdictions within a particular polity, within a within a country, this is where we’re seeing difficulty passing it out. Right.
Richard Albert [00:25:58] Are there are coordination problems and coordination problems are really exacerbated by the politicisation of the crisis. Let me give you an example. So I’m now dialling in from Austin, Austin, Texas, and the mayor of Austin wanted to put in place a mask mandate.
Richard Albert [00:26:18] Makes sense, but the governor said no, that mask mandate is going to be superseded by my executive order.
Richard Albert [00:26:27] Now, there was politics at play here. We’ve also seen this happen around other parts of the United States. In Mississippi, many cities sought to make social distancing ordinances law. And the governor said, no, we will not allow that. And so part of this is politics. Part of it is just how to manage the crisis in the best way. But the question about the Constitution is just so deeply and profoundly important. And here I want to congratulate Doug Earle on the work that he’s doing at charter cities, suggesting the possibility of using Section forty three, one of five different procedures that our Constitution in Canada provides to change the Constitution. I think it’s a good idea. I just don’t know if it’s possible. So let me put another suggestion on the table for us to consider.
Mary W. Rowe [00:27:16] You need to explain what Section forty three is. Just remember, we have lots of people, including me, who don’t know what section forty three is, just.
Richard Albert [00:27:22] Absolutely. So there are five different procedures to amend the Constitution of Canada. And it’s a really enlightened design because the harder it is to amend something, the more important that thing is.
Richard Albert [00:27:35] So, for example, in Canada, if you want to do away with Canada’s relationship to the monarchy, you have to get everyone in the federation to agree parliament and all of the 10 provinces. There’s a question whether the territories have to agree or not. But the Constitution says all 10 provinces have to agree. This is the hardest procedure that we have in the Constitution. There is an easier procedure, which is section forty three. Section forty three allows changes to be made to the Constitution where it affects some but not all provinces. And it can be a negotiation entered into between the government of Canada, represented more broadly in the Parliament. Of Canada and the government of a province that then negotiates and then gets the approval of the Legislative Assembly of the province, so much easier to do than to get everyone to agree across the federation. And so Doug Earl in his group, I think quite rightly, has made the argument that Section forty three is one way of creating this idea of a charter city. I think there are some complications to that. They’re not on overcomer Bill, but precisely because there are complications. I want to put another suggestion on the table that could get Doug Earl. And what all of us here gathered, I think is a good idea, which is to empower cities to do things that are specifically targeted to their needs, the needs of their people and their residents.
Richard Albert [00:29:06] So here’s an idea. There is no such thing yet in Canada as a provincial constitution, but they’re possible. Our Constitution authorises provinces to create, codify and formalise their own constitutions. And in the process of doing that, you can imagine a province writing a new constitution and devolving powers to municipalities. You can do it in a one size fits all way, or you can do it in a more targeted way.
Richard Albert [00:29:36] Toronto gets these powers and Burlington gets these powers Ottawa where I’m from. Although I was raised in Orleans before amalgamation gets these powers, that’s another way I think of doing it. And the beauty of the idea. Mary, just 30 more seconds. The beauty of the idea is that there are many people around Canada who want the idea of a provincial constitution to come into place because they don’t necessarily want municipalities to get more powers, but they see other reasons why provincial constitutions would be a good idea. So what you have is a beginning of a coalition of persons. So in Quebec, for example, there’s talk and we’re writing a book about why Quebec should write its own constitution. It helps to express certain values that distinct society of Quebec. I’m from Quebec, all the while keeping Quebec within Confederation. Alberta is interested in this idea, by the way, of a provincial constitution. The Fair Deal panel discussed it in its report. And so you can imagine the possibility of doing precisely the things that Doug Earl and his group think are important. The things that Mayor Meed Ward think are important, the things that Julie think are important in getting those things done without having to get the approval of the parliament of Canada through Section forty three without having to risk run the risk of being held hostage in these negotiations.
Richard Albert [00:30:58] Let the premier do it in consultation with the mayors.
Mary W. Rowe [00:31:03] Well, gee, thanks, Professor Albert, for just adding another layer of complexity into the question. Thanks very much. I just want to note note that we only have an hour with us.
Mary W. Rowe [00:31:13] And so this is we’re not going to remake the constitutional life of Canada in an hour, but the Massey College with CUI and other partners is moving on something in the spring. Richard’s involved with and I see that Alan Kaspersky, who was coordinating that, is in the chatbox. So if you’ve got an interest in this, you should find Alan in the chat and maybe put your email into the chat so everybody can see it. It’s Alan Kaspersky. I can see him there. Put your e-mail there so people can get in touch with you if they want to really get into the nitty gritty of this. You’ve added a whole nother piece. So question for the group, I guess, if we were to.
Mary W. Rowe [00:31:50] I think one of the dilemmas we’ve had with this discussion is that it quickly becomes just massively overwhelming.
Mary W. Rowe [00:31:57] And, you know, Jane Jacobs gave a massive lecture in 1980 called The Question of Separatism and raised the question of whether we should let Quebec separate.
Mary W. Rowe [00:32:06] But her argument, if you need to anybody wants to look this up, you know, there are people on this call who know it better than me.
Mary W. Rowe [00:32:13] Her argument was it would be better for Montreal and that you would basically be freeing Montreal from the shackles of other kinds of relationships. So you’re introducing a whole new piece, Richard, which is that the other alternative would be to let the provinces basically self determine.
Mary W. Rowe [00:32:28] Right. And then they can. And then I guess it cascades out because one of the questions I’m interested in is that, Marianne, your city is quite small compared to Toronto or Montreal, that you see a charter as a vehicle potentially that would suit the size of your city as well as it would suit the size of Dooly City.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward [00:32:48] Absolutely, and I think each one would be individually negotiated, and I love this new tool. Richard, thank you for that. I you know, I’m one of those people if it’s never been done before, then we should go there. We should do it. So that’s like magic words to me and I’ll be the guinea pig. Like, I’m happy to do it for for Ontario, a charter or or a charter city. And you know what we’ve discovered we’re we’re just hopping over 200000 people. But one of the biggest issues and where this first landed my interest years ago when I was a councillor for eight years before being mayor, was on planning and development issues. We were constantly having our lunch handed to us by the local planning appeal tribunal at that time called the Ontario Municipal Board unelected. One individual had never set foot in Burlington except for the hearing deciding what our community would be like. And so I had started back then a petition to get rid of the OMB entirely and and restore decision making ability to a council. But through that conversation, figured out that that’s just a symptom of a larger problem. And the larger problem is exactly what we’re talking about, that municipalities can get overruled and they only have the powers that the province decides to give us. And so so we absolutely. So that’s one thing Doug mentioned the municipal elections. We you know, the ability to choose your elections. What what could be more important during a pandemic is having the having confidence in the way that you choose people to lead you. So that choice was taken away from us, of course. And then the other matter which has come up from time to time is revenue tools. Those are the ones that I think Mary Rowe you were obliquely referring to. The city of Toronto has chosen not to act on because they’re controversial. So why would you step into that space and that power? And so we all have to recognise that it’s a double edged sword, right? If we ask for more power and we get it and I hope we do, we’re fully then accountable. There is no more of this. Well, that’s their thing. So sorry. Blame them. Go talk to your MP. And I spend an inordinate amount of time explaining that to folks and they just see it as a dodge.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward [00:35:08] And I get it.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward [00:35:09] I get it. I would rather have the ability to make the decision and be accountable and be unpopular if it came to that, rather than having to explain to people the limits of our power that we really can’t do these things. And and then during a pandemic, spending an enormous amount of my time and advocacy, I write, I think, three or four letters a day to, you know, instead of doing the work, I advocate to others about how it should be done. That’s a that’s a huge time waster.
Mary W. Rowe [00:35:40] There’s conversation in the chat that Jack Conway and others are leading, which is a question for all of you about rights, because there is a risk if we devolve more and more authority and responsibility to local governments, what’s the guarantee that we have then that people’s rights are covered under the charter will actually be respected?
Mary W. Rowe [00:35:57] I’m wondering, Julie, you just went through a big process in Alberta trying to get a charter for Edmonton and Calgary.
Mary W. Rowe [00:36:03] How did you guys think about the rights question?
Mary W. Rowe [00:36:06] Did you and how do you think about it in terms of your experience locally there?
Julianna Charchun [00:36:10] Well, that’s that’s an interesting frame that I actually hadn’t considered before.
Julianna Charchun [00:36:15] Let me sort of mull on that and I can tell you a little bit about if it were I don’t know if Doug wanted to jump in on that.
Mary W. Rowe [00:36:22] Why don’t we get Doug on rights? And then I want to come back to Julie, the actual real life experience of trying to get a charter. Go ahead.
Doug Earl [00:36:28] Well, when you have a city charter or whatever mechanism you settle on to give cities more power and whatever constitutional method you use to protect it, at the end of the day, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms still applies. And so all of the protections that we have against a malevolent provincial government, you know, and the way it might act in our individual lives are there if if a city were to act the same way. You know, when you talk about power devolving to cities, you also have to talk about accountability devolving to cities. And, you know, if you’re going to give cities more power, then you have to simultaneously create mechanisms at the city level of oversight. So, you know, auditors, ombudsman, integrity commissioners, whatever it is that that’s necessary to make sure that a more empowered city doesn’t have the power to just run roughshod over people’s lives. I think we have now, since 1980, to an established history of people’s rights, being respected by the courts, in fact, being strengthened, if anything, by the courts. And so I’m not worried about that. The other accountability measure at the local level is that if a city government begins to do things that people don’t like, then they vote them out. And that’s the ultimate accountability and protection.
Mary W. Rowe [00:37:54] Yeah, I hear you on that there’s a kind of an immediacy to that, but the you can imagine people’s apprehension, I guess.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward [00:38:04] I think it’s really important to say that we’re not asking for new powers over people. We’re simply saying which which level of government should be vested with the ability to make those decisions. So it’s not like we’re asking for ways to contravene a charter if those don’t already exist at the provincial level. We’re just saying the province should be the ones that make those decisions. We we need the municipalities, the mayors, the councillors who are the closest to the people. I will hear the day, the second I walk out my front door into a grocery store, whether people are happy or not, you know, try try finding your MP and your MP sometimes because they’re they’re rightly in other places doing that work. So it’s not it isn’t about new powers. It’s about who should be making those decisions. And we think it should be the cities.
Doug Earl [00:38:49] And just a quick point on that, too, which is that right now we have people who don’t live in the city of Toronto making municipal decisions about what goes on in the city of Toronto. So we have people who don’t live here making decisions about land use, and they’re for the built form of the city quality of life in the city. They’re making decisions about transit. They’re making decisions about how the city is funded and what happens with tax money raised in the city that goes out to senior levels of government. So right now, you can say that there is no accountability for these decisions because I can’t vote against the guy in Timmins who makes the.
Doug Earl [00:39:25] So going down to the city level is going to enhance protections and not cause problems that way.
Mary W. Rowe [00:39:31] And to be fair, the people in Timmins feel the Queen’s Park is telling them what to do, too. So there’s a structure here. That’s it. And you can imagine this magnifies when you start to say, well, what are the decisions that are being made in Ottawa? OK, Julie, let’s hear some real talk from you about what the experience is and trying to hammer out a charter and what are the lessons you can tell us.
Julianna Charchun [00:39:51] Sure. And just for a little bit of back. Well, first, I have to say I just really appreciate all that commentary by my colleagues on the panel. It feels so true.
Julianna Charchun [00:39:58] And there’s something very odd about this idea that local governments are somehow less accountable than provincial or federal governments. And that’s probably a whole nother panel. I’ll leave it at that. But that’s definitely been a theme of the real experience of doing this. But so just to back up, prior to working in the mayor’s office, I’ve been here now seven years. And prior to doing that, I was working on intergovernmental files for the city of Edmonton and specifically we were working on city charter files. So I’ve probably been on this file here in Edmonton like a decade or so. And I can think back. We’ve had three different governments that we’ve involved, multiple premiers under the PC government. Of course, there were several premiers there who were involved, three issues that I can recall that were signed that said, we’ll agree to talk about roles and responsibilities and different and have the conversation. Finally, we did engage very in in a really earnest and consistent way with when the New Democrats came into power near the end of the term. Things really ramped up for that near the end of what ended up being the end of their their time in power. It was about 10 months of intensive negotiations, I would say, where we landed with with that government was at fiscal a fiscal framework essentially that tied our new infrastructure dollars. So instead of sort of our existing Municipal Sustainability Initiative programme here in Alberta, which sort of the provincial government says here’s some money for infrastructure and go do with it what you like, for obvious reasons, the provincial government, provincial governments don’t really love that kind of a programme. Right. They don’t get to celebrate or get credit for it. But in any case, we decided that what we wanted to do is we sort of saw the writing on the wall in terms of Alberta’s economy. And we recognise that what we needed to do was probably take a position of getting less. But and so what we did was we negotiated a deal whereby our revenues for infrastructure would be tied to the provincial economy, which is really, really important because it doubles down. It means that our what we get would go up and down depending on where, depending on provincial revenues. And I think the really important principle behind that kind of a move is that we’re already cities are, of course, really critical to provincial and federal economies. But there wasn’t that that very clear tie that made it sort of demonstrates that there’s now an incentive for cities to participate in the provincial economy because we’re going to see a direct return. So that was that was a really critical piece about that. In addition to that, we also negotiated a sort of a pot of money for our region, because Edmonton is is is the central city in a very highly connected metro region. And we’re concerned and Mayor Ivison has been working very hard on this this entire time as mayor and before. To really double down on ensuring that we have regional collaboration so that we’re being super efficient and working together and making infrastructure decisions that are sort of good for the whole region, not necessarily just for Edmonton or just for one other municipality. So there was some money for that. There was also a large amount of money that was going to help us with the next phase of our LRT billion for transit, which was highly significant. And then in addition to that, we we got a number of policy and legislative powers. I will say that the list of of powers, policy tools that we were looking for was long. The list that we ended up with was very short. And we’ll we’ll see what happens with those. So anyway, we this whole thing was legislated. It was a deal for Edmonton and Calgary. We had we had a provincial election. Obviously, we knew kind of where things were probably going to be headed. We were paying pretty close attention. We anticipated potentially a change in government and we ensured that we had a commitment within the U.S., the United Conservative Party’s platform to maintaining the charters for Edmonton and Calgary that is in their party platform. It was a commitment that they made. They won the election. A large majority came along. First budget city charters disappeared, and so the fiscal framework was gone. And the new fiscal framework that’s for all municipalities is is not anywhere close to what we negotiated. And we were and there was no engagement or conversation or even, frankly, a heads up that that was going to happen. So that’s where we stand after about a decade of work.
Mary W. Rowe [00:44:44] Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of heartbreaking because it just illustrates exactly the point you guys are arguing for, that you can’t nothing will stick here. They are kind of operating at the largesse of your province.
Julianna Charchun [00:44:55] Yeah, and sorry, Mary, I want to also say what I find because I thought Richard’s comments were fascinating. But I need to add into the mix here that the United Conservative Party ideologically, one would assume, would align itself with the idea of a of subsidiarity. That was my assumption anyway.
Julianna Charchun [00:45:16] So this ideological inconsistency for us is is really challenging. And so if you can’t make it work with a conservative government, what hope do you have with a different party? I would argue anyway that I just want to put that out.
Mary W. Rowe [00:45:31] I think it’s a Gordian knot, folks. I mean, this is that this is the dilemma because, as you say, subsidiarity, the idea that you pushed down to the local community decisions and responsibility and resources that you put to the community, that serving, providing the service, that’s a good small C conservative principle around self-sufficiency and self-reliance and all that stuff. The dilemma is the way that politics is done in the way electoral boundaries are crafted, in the way votes are cast. And it’s very tricky. I’m conscious that this is we often say that we have parallel city talk is parallel conversations, one that’s live here and then one that’s going on in the chat, which is why we always publish the chat. So this this this session is going to really exemplify that, because there’s a lot of really talk that I can’t possibly read in there into the Indigenous mean things of Section five and Bill five and Bill 20 to all of you, I hope you will get in touch with Al and make sure you go to that Massey College thing where they’re going to get into this in every way. And we’ll publish the chat so people can look up those bills later and study up. Richard, you you introduced this big hairy idea of a provincial constitution, but can we talk practical for the last 10 minutes we’ve got on this session? You know, if you were these folks, if you were in municipal government, the way Marianne is in the way Julie is, in the way Doug is advocating, how what would you advise them in terms of how they should spend their time?
Richard Albert [00:46:58] I mean, I’ve been thinking about them forward.
Richard Albert [00:47:02] Yeah, I’ve been thinking and writing about provincial constitutions for some time. It’s it’s something we don’t have in Canada. But that doesn’t need to be the only answer. I think the section forty three path that was put on the table a moment ago is a possibility. But the problem, of course, is that there are these residual vestigial memories of the dramatic failures of constitutional reform efforts in Canada in the 80s and 90s, the failure of the accord, the failure of the Charlottetown Accord. And I just worry that that’s going to hold us up in amending the Constitution.
Richard Albert [00:47:37] Now, the section forty three strategy. But then why do you think making new constitutions? Because you don’t need the permission from anybody.
Richard Albert [00:47:45] The previous what we find here is that you’re absolutely right, that that’s every time you say the word constitution, people say, oh, it’s like, oh my God, we’ll never get it. It’s going to take too many people. But in fact, a single province amendment has already been used eight times since the Constitution was brought home in nineteen eighty two. I’m not like me or me, Lord, where if you haven’t done it before, go there. I’m more like, well, if it’s been done before then the path is beaten and that’s going to make it a little bit easier to achieve what it is that we want to achieve. But we’ve got to get over. You’re totally right, Richard. We’ve got to get over that that reluctance on people’s part to to talk about constitutions or reopen the Constitution in any way. It’s very easy to do. The federal government has already indicated privately that it would be open to an approach by a province and a city seeking a city charter to be constitutionalised.
Richard Albert [00:48:36] So we think it’s not an overcomer bill thing at all to get that part of the of the piece done.
Richard Albert [00:48:43] You know, in politics, we have these mental maps about what is possible and what is not. And the C word is, in fact, the C word. You know, people don’t like to say it in politics, and that’s because they have long memories. But Doug Earl is quite right that this section forty three power has been used on occasion since nineteen eighty two. But I worry that things have changed since the demise of the Charlottetown Accord and they’ve changed because now it’s very likely that there will be legislative trading and logrolling. So you want this. Well what are you going to give me for that or you’re getting into this deal with Ontario. Well, Alberta will have something to say about that. Alberta is. But what will Quebec say? And so the reason why the provincial constitution idea and I don’t want to try to sell it, I just want to expand our conversation.
Richard Albert [00:49:31] The reason why I think there’s a strength to it is that it doesn’t require the participation of anyone other than the provincial actors themselves. And it could be led by the premier herself. She can do it herself and create the constitutional.
Mary W. Rowe [00:49:44] So, Richard, let’s talk for a minute about your home province, because urbanists are always keen on pilots like can we try something? Can we do something in a modest way, in a limited space? And then if it works fantastic, then government will take it on or it will spread. It will become more popular. And I make this comment that we’re now every community is in a pilot and we’re in the pandemic pilot now.
Mary W. Rowe [00:50:06] But rather than having to say, OK, let’s do it, I mean, make it so we could we find one environment where we could try it.
Mary W. Rowe [00:50:17] Would Quebec, for instance, that already the Quebec government already has a different relationship with Montreal? Would that be the area? And I can imagine that there is an interest in a provincial constitution in Quebec. There would be probably enormous interest in that.
Richard Albert [00:50:31] There is enormous interest in that. And in fact, a few years ago, the government of Quebec released a white paper on this very question. And so it’s not it’s not the kind of pie in the sky. It’s an idea that people are actually thinking about and it’s there to be grasped. But of course, there is political will that must be had. First, you have to assemble that political will. And politicians are conservative by disposition, not capital C with Lawsie.
Mary W. Rowe [00:50:58] It’s interesting in our position here at CUI, you know, we hear you about political will and we support the Federation of Municipalities, which does all the political advocacy. Julie is very involved with them in terms of how this FCMB represents and advocates in the political realm. But we also think there’s capacity at the staff level within these bureaucracies. And I think there’s a there is I think there’s lots of understanding and provincial and federal bureaucracies at staff levels where people have been working there for twenty, twenty five years. They know that there are limitations to the way the current arrangements work. And I’m curious whether that is also a strategy, is to work with with bureaucrats and work with policymakers. Political political stuff can go in parallel.
Mary W. Rowe [00:51:38] Marianne, I’m interested in the piece you mentioned about whether we should be looking at regional charters versus.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward [00:51:46] I would well, I’ll sign up right here for to be a pilot project, you know, and and so I’m putting my hand up. But, you know, I think this is one to Richard’s point where I actually think the public certainly the public in my municipality are ahead of the politicians on this. They are they are asking, begging for more powers to be devolved to cities. They are ready for that. And as as Doug mentioned earlier, the if they don’t like the decisions that their local elected officials are making, they can vote them out every four years just as they can vote out the federal and provincial. So but but at the municipal, the beauty is it’s you and your platform. You don’t have the baggage, for better or worse, of a party banner carrying you and sometimes literally carrying you through to victory, regardless of what you personally bring to the table. And so it’s one of the reasons I love municipal politics is that it is you directly accountable for your ideas, your policies, your platforms, your achievements to the residents. And they are asking for this. They they put this in front of me a long time ago related to planning issues. But but as we’ve looked at all the other opportunities know, I’ve already been in discussions with our local member of parliament or member of provincial parliament about this. And as Doug said, there is some willingness, depending on the path chosen. I I really am intrigued by the idea of a provincial charter, but I do think that there would be opportunity for the federal government to really just approve what a province in a city has come up with. That’s their role under Section forty three. They don’t they don’t even really have to do much except. Oh, you guys have sort of something out. Sure. We’ll give you the stamp of approval. And if you put it that way, it doesn’t have to be a constitutional crisis.
Mary W. Rowe [00:53:32] Right. And so I want to just riff on on your last two comments and then ask each of you for something in closing as we end of the hour. And I wish I could ask everybody on the chat for a single comment, too, because really they’re having a hell of a time over there.
Mary W. Rowe [00:53:47] You know, I think one of the tangible questions is, will people’s lives, will Canadians lives be better and will services be delivered to them more effectively? If we were to see this kind of change, how would it materially change my life, whether I live in in Edmonton or Calgary or Burlington or Toronto or Vancouver or Orleans, are there would it would we actually see the difference? Because I think that otherwise I worry that we’ll spend another decade talking away about what we think we need.
Mary W. Rowe [00:54:26] And in the meantime, we have all sorts of challenges. So, Julie, to start with you, what tangibly would make a difference here to a regular person on the street?
Julianna Charchun [00:54:38] I’m going to pick housing because it’s it’s a it’s topical.
Julianna Charchun [00:54:42] OK, so you were asking earlier, Mary, about who do I who do I hold accountable when I see homeless people on the street? And you’re right, people don’t know whose jurisdiction that is. It’s the provinces, by the way. But anyway, you know, part of what we’ve seen this year through the pandemic and because of also the economic conditions in Alberta is just and very visible homeless population. And this has impacted everybody in our community, folks who are frankly nervous to walk down Main Street, for better or worse, the folks who are living rough in our river valley in massive camps that have been set up in the city themselves, which is obviously dangerous in a whole bunch of different ways. Business and investors who are interested, who may be interested in investing in our city and starting business, see what’s happening and feel less inclined to do so, quite honestly. So if we had the tools to do this ourselves, which which actually in Edmonton, interestingly, if you’ve been following what we’ve been doing on the homelessness file, we’ve basically just been doing it. We haven’t done it. Yeah. And it’s not our jurisdiction and it’s not what property taxes were meant to do. But we feel so compelled. And this has been unanimously endorsed by city council time and time again. It’s we have a moral obligation to do this when it doesn’t matter that the provincial government is responsible and that the federal government has the money, people expect us to do something about it and we expect ourselves to do something about it. So I really believe the mayor, Mayor Iveson, said a little while ago, we could actually and we could we could effectively end homelessness. And that’s not a stretch at all. It isn’t. We could do it. We’re going to get we’re going to get pretty close. I think we’re really leaning hard on the federal government through the Rapid Housing Initiative and other and other bits of advocacy. And we’re hoping that the province will come on board, but we could effectively end homelessness in this country. I think that’s a pretty big thing and pretty meaningful. So that that would be my example. And honestly, just with a few shifts, we don’t even need a constitutional change provincially or federally to do it. We just need some alignment around priorities, quite honestly, and a few other things that we don’t have a time to get into today. But I’ll leave it there.
Mary W. Rowe [00:57:34] But what’s interesting is that you’re leading and you’re and you’re dragging the other jurisdictions with you and saying, I’m close and we’re going to deal with it. OK, Doug that’s often the case right across the board.
Doug Earl [00:57:44] It would result in better decisions, quicker decisions, less overlap, less duplication, less expense. Give you one quick example. The in twenty sixteen, John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, goes to the premier of Ontario and says we want to stop paying cops 90 bucks an hour to direct traffic on our streets. Nothing happens for four years. The provincial government has to give the city the authority to do that so those traffic wardens can write tickets. It went round and round and round and round. And finally last month, four and a half years later, they were able to implement that change. That’s nuts. It happens in everything. Cities touch by clarifying the rules, giving certainty, giving predictability, separating out who does what, and letting the people who are going to do it have the power to do it. You’re going to change things across the board.
Mary W. Rowe [00:58:37] Richard.
Richard Albert [00:58:39] Just two, two short points. I’ve lived in three different cities in Ontario, Orleans, Ottawa, Brockville and Toronto, there are different cities with different needs.
Richard Albert [00:58:51] And so I think it makes just good sense to say that city should have the capacity to work with their residents and deliver the needs of the residents however they think is best their best suited to do it. This is a subsidiarity principle in action and it’s a theoretical principle that’s actually been borne out evidentially to be a workable principle. The second and final point I’ll make and again, thank you for having me. This has been really just splendid is that in politics, it’s the art of the possible. Things become possible when you build coalitions and think of the coalitions of people who are behind right now publicly the idea of a provincial constitution. You have Quebec soft nationalists, you have Quebec federalists who want to express their distinctness interests in Canada. You have I’ve been in touch with some Albertans, a former minister who says this is a great idea to give more autonomy to Alberta.
Richard Albert [00:59:46] And then potentially we have Mayor Meed Ward and others who believe this is a good way to devolve more powers onto cities. And this is how progress is made in politics, is to build coalitions of those who might not otherwise hold hands. But because they see the possibilities of an idea to be used the way they think could be used, that’s how things become possible.
Mary W. Rowe [01:00:08] OK, last word to you, Marianne, very briefly, please.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward [01:00:11] Planning and development. We can make a decision about a development and it gets overturned. And who do you hold accountable? An independent tribunal that you don’t elect. And so there is no willing ability to hold accountable. And at all of the other things the panellists mentioned and I do think cities are going to start just doing it, just like Julie mentioned. We are we have we have through this pandemic and that’s the way it’s going to go. And we’ll end up doing the charter and then after the fact, getting it interesting.
Mary W. Rowe [01:00:42] And just to close on this, when I was in New Orleans, I was there for the five years after Katrina and one of the community leaders said to me that they realise they waited and waited for a period of time, thought the cavalry was going to come across the hill.
Mary W. Rowe [01:00:53] And then they realised finally that no one was coming, that they were the ones they’ve been waiting for. And she said to me, you know, we have to stand up and we’re not about to sit down.
Mary W. Rowe [01:01:02] So I think that’s the moment we have folks we’re all standing up through Covid trying to figure out what the new cities are going to look like. I appreciate very much Julianna and Doug and Mayor Ward and Richard, thanks for coming and spending a bit of time in your home country. We’re back here on Friday for city talk, this time in specifically in Edmonton and actually on Edmonton time. So 12:30, with the mayors of Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Red Deer and Lethbridge, a powerhouse of municipal leadership and power from Alberta coming to you on City Talk on Friday. In the meantime, we’re going back to Edmonton. Thanks everybody. Thanks for being so active on the last conversation. We’re going to have lots more about Piroska cities. Thanks, everybody.
Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact email@example.com with “Chat Comments” in the subject lin
From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk
12:01:15 From Canadian Urban Institute : Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:01:32 From Canadian Urban Institute : Attendees: where are you tuning in from today?
12:01:47 From Tim Grant : I’m Tim Grant in Toronto
12:01:52 From sue uteck to All panelists : Hello from Halifax!
12:02:11 From Luis Silva : I’m Luis Silva in Toronto.
12:02:15 From Greg Murphy : Greg Murphy from London Ontario
12:02:18 From Kirsten Goa : Kirsten Goa, I’m in Edmonton.
12:02:31 From Morgan Vespa : Hello! Joining from Treaty 1 territory and the traditional homeland of the Metis Nation, Winnipeg, MB
12:02:39 From Pooja Kumar : Pooja Kumar, Charlottetown
12:02:45 From Marg Krutow to All panelists : Marg Krutow – Toronto and Wasaga Beach
12:02:46 From Beth Levy to All panelists : I’m Beth Levy in Toronto
12:02:49 From Howard Green : Hi. Howard Green from Toronto.
12:02:53 From Leslie Forge to All panelists : Leslie Forge in Toronto
12:02:55 From Roland Dorsay : In Ottawa
12:03:07 From John Ryerson : John Ryerson Toronto
12:03:44 From Robert Brocklebank : Bob Brocklebank in Ottawa
12:04:10 From Jimmy Johnson to All panelists : Goodday,everybody
12:05:07 From Dan Fewings : Norfolk County, Ontario
12:05:36 From Dan Fewings : Dan Fewings
12:06:22 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Charter City Toronto
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward
Mayor of Burlington
Professor, University of Texas
Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor, City of Edmonton
12:07:40 From Laura Servage : Laura Servage, Hogtown…but proud former Edmontonian!
12:08:27 From Marg Krutow : Marg Krutow, Toronto and Wasaga Beach
12:08:42 From Lester Brown to All panelists : Toronto.
12:09:06 From Jimmy Johnson to All panelists : well done mary r rowe
12:09:47 From Canadian Urban Institute : Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments. Thanks!
12:10:59 From Mary Ann Neary to All panelists : Mary Ann Neary from Toronto
12:11:00 From Lester Brown : Toronto
12:12:13 From Alan Kasperski to All panelists : Alan Kasperski from Stratford, Ontario … greetings all.
12:12:21 From Dan Fewings : Where was the information on City Watch that Mary just alluded to?
12:12:56 From Alan Kasperski : Alan Kasperski, Stratford, Ontario
12:13:16 From Beth Levy : Beth Levy in Toronto
12:13:25 From Canadian Urban Institute : https://canurb.org/initiatives/citywatch-canada/
12:13:58 From Bianca Wylie : Bianca Wylie in Toronto
12:13:59 From Sonja Greckol : Sonja Greckol, Toronto
12:14:17 From Dan Fewings : Thanks CUI
12:14:54 From Geoff Kettel to All panelists : Geoff Kettel Toronto
12:14:58 From Mary W Rowe : www.citywatchcanada.ca
12:20:27 From sue uteck : Halifax has their own charter but the number of changes requested are often ignored, dismissed or takes 2 years to implement a change.
12:21:41 From Laura Servage : Sue, a Charter with no teeth then…
12:21:47 From Lester Brown : How would a charter improve on or change the Toronto Act? Would the power still not rest with the province.
12:22:46 From Alan Kasperski to All panelists : as the COT Act is provincial legislation, it can be changed by Queens Park at anytime.
12:23:11 From Canadian Urban Institute to Alan Kasperski and all 12:23:46 From Alan Kasperski to All panelists : further, the COT specifically bars the city from a share of sales and income taxes.
12:25:04 From Venczel Gloria : Does a new City Charter not require a constitutional amendment?
12:25:18 From Alan Kasperski : the COT is provincial legislation – hence it can be changed by the provincial government. The COT also bars the city from a share of sales and income taxes.
12:26:26 From Alan Kasperski : @Gloria. question is “which constitution”? Federal and Provincial. either are options.
12:27:50 From Lester Brown : alan Are you talking about a Federal Charter and is that possible?
12:28:48 From Alan Kasperski : a federal amendment or writing the idea of a city charter into a provincial constitution.
12:29:40 From Purshottama Reddy to All panelists : Why does a municipality need a charter – it has certain pre – determined powers and functions in terms of which it can act ? Does every municipality have to develop a charter. ? Municipal governance is going to become quite complicated.
12:29:45 From John Ryerson : Wouldn’t one province buying into S 43 be the ice breaker?
12:29:58 From Alejandro Perales to All panelists : Is the lack of consensus amongst federations evidence of a need to step away from “one size fits all” policies and measures? What would work in Edmonton, would not work on rural Alberta. Is this an issue of scale in policies and mandates?
12:30:42 From Venczel Gloria : @Alan- there are existing City Charters, ie, City of Vancouver . Someone brought it up….
12:31:39 From John Ryerson : scary
12:31:54 From Danielle Tivoli : Really interesting segment Richard!
12:32:31 From Dan Fewings : This is fantastic and informative! That was brilliant Richard! Great first round gang!
12:32:40 From Alan Kasperski : firstname.lastname@example.org
12:32:42 From Luis Silva : B.C. has its own provincial constitution. The provincial legislature has the authority to amend/abolish its provincial constitution. See: https://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96066_01
12:32:49 From Lester Brown : Alan – are the other charters under section 43 or just in agreement with provinces.
12:32:51 From Christine Drimmie : How often could such a provincial constitution be amended? Would we just have each new government amending it to match their party values?
12:32:55 From Alan Kasperski : www.masseycitiessummit.ca
12:33:37 From Vincent Yong to All panelists : little napoleons will be formed. Richard, what is the check and balance?
12:33:59 From Laura Servage : I wonder though… would a provincial constitution make any difference to the core problem of getting provincial buy-in?
12:34:04 From Joy Connelly : Interesting idea, Richard. I’m just concerned that some of the “values” embraced by provinces are ways of avoiding Canadian Charter of Rights, etc.
12:34:33 From Vincent Yong to All panelists : we need people in power to be passionate and honest..just simple…people will be behind good people.
12:34:33 From Laura Servage : Good point Joy. Relationship between any provincial constitutions and the Charter would have to be clear.
12:35:29 From Alan Kasperski : Section 43 allowed single province amendments to the federal constitution. none of the times it has been used was the subject city charters.
12:35:35 From Christopher Wilson : Chances of getting the Province to draw a charter devolving powers to the City of Toronto are about the same as Premier Ford abandoning his core support group the land developers.
12:36:01 From Kirsten Goa : When our provinces are actively undermining cities while downloading responsibilities any suggestions for how to convince a provincial gov that is consolidating power, to then share it?
12:36:25 From Howard Green : Why would negotiating a provincial constitution be less complicated than a section 43 amendment with the Parliament of Canada after the province and a large city like Toronto negotiated and agreed on a Charter?
12:36:32 From Vincent Yong : Good point Mayor Marianne… accountability. Power with responsibility.
12:36:54 From Nevena Dragicevic to All panelists : Somewhat related to Joy Connelly’s point – Is there a danger with having many different municipal and/or provincial charters in creating more inequities across Canadian cities? Thinking about those that end up with less or more powers, that have less capacity and need more provincial and federal support.
12:37:18 From Alan Kasperski : unless, Christopher, there were more and more Mayors, like the Mayor of Burlington, who start campaigning for more and real local autonomy. ,
12:37:45 From Canadian Urban Institute to Nevena Dragicevic and all panelists : Hi Nevena. We love your comments and questions in the chat! Share them with everyone by changing your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees”. Thanks!
12:38:00 From Joy Seth : Joy Seth: The challenges of the political party in power provincially not willing to devolve powers as we’ve seen with Doug Ford. Also the larger issue of claim to relationships with businesses and the issue of taxation or benefits to companies.
12:38:20 From Nevena Dragicevic : Somewhat related to Joy Connelly’s point – Is there a danger with having many different municipal and/or provincial charters in creating more inequities across Canadian cities? Thinking about those that end up with less or more powers, that have less capacity and need more provincial and federal support.
12:38:47 From Alan Kasperski : Howard – it wouldn’t … but a codified provincial constitution would involve much much more than city charters … election systems for example.
12:38:56 From Joy Connelly : My worry wasn’t power at the City level! I find cities way more progressive than provinces. It’s the concept of a provincial charter that spooked me.
12:39:24 From Christine Drimmie : We in Ontario have a provincial government that has pointedly stripped away their accountability officers. Municipalities now do have several accountability officials in place…integrity commissioners for example
12:40:39 From Christopher Wilson : Doug, You’re right. For the last fifty years the decisions about city growth in Toronto has ben made by Europeans, mostly Italian builders
12:40:56 From Laura Servage : A more extended conversation outside of the mechanisms to create a charter…that most folks understand democracy (accountability and power) in direct and local terms… yet cities as they sit have very little power to work with grassroots/local democracy and get anything of substance done.
12:42:16 From John Scott Wintrup to All panelists : Local Autonomy is too often being characterized as idyllic. When there is no outside tribunal such as a municipal board, there is no check on local power affecting land owners’ rights.
12:42:58 From Laura Servage : So part of public education/buy-in is making those connections to more local empowerment for citizens, not just the muni governments themselves.
12:43:33 From Luis Silva : School boards in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan have constitutional status under Section 93 of the constitution. School boards in Quebec and Newfoundland lost their constitutional status in 1998 by a constitutional amendment between a resolution of the provincial legislature and Parliament. By using Section 43, cities can be elevated to the level of school boards in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
12:44:37 From Christopher Wilson : The basic problem devolving powers to the city is the calibre of political representatives at the city or town level is… how do I say this without being rude to anyone on this fine panel — preoccupied with local dynamics and largely unaware or unresponsive to anything else. Basically what the cities want is the ability to tax and the ability to run deficits.
12:44:49 From Doug Earl : If anyone wants to ask questions about a City Charter or constitutional protection, please contact us at email@example.com or see our website www.chartercitytoronto.ca
12:45:32 From Laura Servage : I don’t know Christopher… there’s some pretty questionable calibre out there at higher levels too!
12:46:24 From Howard Green : Thanks Alan, and seems a simpler mechanism like a 43 amendment that protects the charter from unilateral provincial interference aka Bill 5 in Ontario or Bill 218 in the municipal electoral process would be better than trying to negotiate a Constitution.
12:47:22 From John Ryerson : Calibre of elected has been greatly weakened by the lack of local media to hold them accountable
12:47:38 From Venczel Gloria : As with the former Ontario Municipal Board which truncated municipal democratic process for planning and development approvals, how can the checks and balances for democratic decision making be ensured in any future changes? How can a new green deal for cities be protected from ideological swings?
12:47:39 From Dan Fewings : Very true John!
12:48:03 From Gail Greer to All panelists : I doubt if any province will agree to lose any powers over the most populace parts of their territories. Working at the federal constitutional level would give cities a big brother in making this reform.
12:48:16 From Christopher Wilson : Both fair comments.
12:48:38 From Alan Kasperski : Any sec 43 amendment still needs to be approved by both the federal AND provincial governments. a provincial constitution does not include the feds.
12:48:50 From Kirsten Goa : George Lakoff talks about the cognitive framing of progressives and conservatives that explains in part why subsidiarity would be espoused by conservatives, but consolidation of power is the reality.
12:49:35 From Julianna Charchun to All panelists : Tks Kirsten I’ll check that out!
12:50:27 From Caryl Arundel to All panelists : Richard – FYI, Kirstin Good (2019) has done some work advocating for provincial constitutions and formal provincial recognition of municipalities.
12:50:32 From Laura Servage : Interesting, Kirsten. Got a link?
12:50:33 From John Ryerson : 100% on Lakoff
12:51:02 From Julianna Charchun : Tks Kirsten I’ll check that out!
12:51:59 From Bianca Wylie : YES
12:52:07 From Kirsten Goa : His book Don’t Think of an Elephant is short and I found it really helpful for explaining these disconnects. It’s American but the ideas can be applied across issues and jurisdictions.
12:52:08 From Caryl Arundel to All panelists : Good, K. R. (2019, November 26). The fallacy of the “creatures of the provinces” doctrine: Recognizing and protecting municipalities’ constitutional status. Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance. https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/98264/1/imfgpaper_no46_recognizingandprotectingmunicipalities_kristingood_nov_26_2019.pdf
Good, K.R. (2019, November 29). Municipalities are integral to Canada’s constitutional design. We need to empower them and stop viewing them as “creatures of the provinces.” Policy Options. https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/november-2019/municipalities-deserve-more-autonomy-and-respect/
12:52:15 From Pooja Kumar : If anyone is interested, PEI has a long-standing history of making wide-sweeping changes to local governments without talking to them (including historically changing school boards into municipalities and in 2017 replacing an old local governance law with a more modern one). 2018 was the first year that all local governments on PEI were required to use a secret ballot for municipal elections. Just noting this to point out the obvious thing that municipalities across the board often don’t have the capacity to do what they need to to ensure accountability while residents often expect a consistent approach across a geography like a sub-national jurisdiction.
12:52:49 From ronni rosenberg to All panelists : public ahead of politicians….expanding the “overton window…”
12:53:27 From Bianca Wylie : (my yes was to engaging more of the public service in these conversations, however that can be done within constraints of their roles)
12:53:53 From Howard Green : Doug just added further details to my comments and I think a federal Parliament would be politically challenged if they failed to act in support of a single province amendment to a City Charter that both the province and city agreed to. They have approved 8 times already and suspect polling on a protected Charter powers for cities especially in large cites would be quite supportive.
12:54:33 From Christopher Wilson : The first duty of every politician at every level is to attain power. The second duty is to retain it. Political power has at best only incidental relationship to the benefit it confers on the electorate. At the municipal level because so few people vote this is even more starkly the case . As a taxpayer simpliciter I abhor additional levels of government as all they do is spend more money hiring more civil servants to enact or enforce more often duplicitous legislation.
12:54:51 From Susan Fletcher to All panelists : Thank you Mayor Marianne for saying “residents”. Far too many folks say “citizens” which leaves out the non-status immigrants, migrant workers, refugees, etc.
12:55:31 From Venczel Gloria : Can someone address the issue of democratic checks and balances of wrt a Provincial Constitution? Without resident buy-in through the fine scaled democratic municipal process, you run the risk of more people opting out of the ” social contract ” and municipalities /provinces losing ” social license ” for rethinking cities, a new green deal for cities?
12:55:50 From Alejandro Perales : What if Charter Cities were to be a temporary measure in times of crisis instead off permanent mandates? Would this expedite their nomination and ratification at both the provincial and federal level?
12:56:58 From John Ryerson : Sounds like we need a whole lot of “pilot projects” to bring evidence to the table and away from ideology
12:57:27 From Bianca Wylie : yes to moral obligation – wish I heard that phrase more often
12:57:39 From Kirsten Goa : The City of Edmonton’s leadership on this has been fantastic.
12:57:58 From Lester Brown : I will email a question but interested in where Sec 43 has been used. I believe it was used on Quebec and Newfoundland schools but not sure of other uses. may be difficult when it ocmes to City powers which are not province wide.
12:58:05 From Christine Drimmie : In Ontario housing was devolved to cities/regions by the Harris government, but we continue to struggle with lack of funding and no revenue stream locally to support it.
12:59:11 From Kirsten Goa : We just had this back and forth for our bylaw officers being able to enforce mask bylaws
12:59:47 From Christine Drimmie : Power to act has to be accompanied by authority/tools to raise the revenue to support it.
13:00:06 From Canadian Urban Institute : You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
To support CityTalk and the Canadian Urban Institute’s other city building initiatives, please donate at www.canurb.org/donate.
What did you think of today’s conversation? Help us improve our programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2L09bBP
13:00:18 From Lyle Halcro to All panelists : love hearing Julie’s and Marianne’s views and passion…politicians with hearts in the right place. thanks for your work. Greg and Richard’s insights and spunk…amazing. keep the faith.
13:00:29 From Joy Connelly : brilliant panel. A great session. Now I want to follow up on your websites! And I’m someone who knows zip about constitutional issues
13:01:14 From Marie-Josée Houle : Thanks for your comments, Julianna! I work in housing loss prevention and advocacy. Homelessness and poverty are results of bad policies. These are policy issues. That being said, I have noted over the past few years that many provincial governments are kicking their financial and bureaucratic responsibilities upstairs (to the Feds) and downstairs (to Municipalities). Is it appropriate for a municipality to invest in housing? They are paying for the result of homelessness, so there is no choice, but…
13:01:22 From Lester Brown : Thanks for this great discussion. Do agree strongly in more City powers but wonder about the political mine field to get there. Cities, however, need more powers.
13:01:36 From Vincent Yong : good honest panel..people first and accountability..At least in Canada, we can have discussion …keep on your good work
13:01:40 From Kirsten Goa : 👍
13:01:48 From Vincent Yong : Thank you.
13:01:49 From Marie-Josée Houle : Bravo everyone! Thank you!
13:01:50 From Dan Fewings : Great job Moderating the discussion and to the fabulous panel!
13:01:55 From Pooja Kumar : Thank you!
13:02:01 From Bianca Wylie : thanks all 🙂
13:02:01 From Laura Tate to All panelists : Thank you. A thoughtful discussion.
13:02:03 From Luis Silva : Thanks to the panel. It was a great and informative discussion. Great job!
13:02:05 From Howard Green : great session
13:02:17 From Kirsten Goa : Thank you! This was fantastic!
13:02:17 From Kathleen Aldridge to All panelists : Very informative— thank you
13:02:23 From Alexandra Flynn : Thanks all! That was terrific