Municipal government of Toronto

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City of Toronto Logo.png
Logo of the City of Toronto
Predecessor York, Upper Canada
Merged into 1998
Formation January 1, 1834; 184 years ago (1834-01-01)
Merger of
Type Municipal government
Headquarters Toronto City Hall
John Tory

The municipal government of Toronto, corporately known as the City of Toronto, is a public corporation providing services to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is administered by 44 elected councillors (representing around 55,000 people each), who along with the mayor, make up the Toronto City Council. Torontonians elect a new council every four years, in October.


The City of Toronto is legally bound by the City of Toronto Act, an Ontario law. It lays down the division of powers, responsibilities and required duties of the corporation. The City Council is the only power able to enact Toronto laws, known as "by-laws", which govern the actions of the corporation and/or matters within its jurisdiction, such as administration of the Canadian Criminal Code within its borders. The Council itself forms several committees after every election to divide the administration of the corporation. The Council also forms several "Community Councils" which hear matters relating to narrower, district issues, such as building permits and developments requiring changes to zoning by-laws. Community Council decisions, as well as those of the Mayor, must be approved by City Council at regular sessions.

The top civil servant in the corporation is the City Manager, who reports to the Mayor and City Council. Prior to 2005, the city had various departments headed by Commissioners. These heads were simplified by replacing the departments with divisions headed by Deputy Manager. All department heads now report to the City Manager.[1] The following senior staff report to the City Manager:

  • Five Directors
    • three Deputy City Managers (including one as Chief Financial Officer)
      • 22 Directors (including Executive Directors, Acting ED, Project Directors)
      • 11 Managers (including General Managers, Acting General Managers)
      • one Treasurer
      • three Officers (Chief Information Officer, Chief Corporate Officer, Medical Officer of Health)

City officials reporting directly to City Council:

  • Auditor General
  • Integrity Commissioner
  • Lobbyists Registrar
  • Ombudsman
  • City Solicitor
  • City Clerk


The City of Toronto represents the fifth largest municipal government in North America. It has two budgets, the operating budget, which is the cost of operating programs, services, and the cost of governing; and the capital budget, which covers the cost of building and the upkeep of infrastructure. The City of Toronto had an approved operating budget of CA$12.3 billion in 2017 and a 10-year capital budget and plan of CA$39.5 billion.[2] The City's largest operating expenditures are the Toronto Transit Commission at CA$1.955 billion (19%), and the Toronto Police Services, CA$1.131 billion (9%).[2] The largest single capital expenditure in the 2017–2026 capital plan is Toronto Water, an expenditure of CA$12.08 billion, or 30% of the capital budget.[2]

Under the City of Toronto Act, the Toronto government cannot run a deficit for its annual operating budget.[3] The city's revenues include 33% from property tax, 6% from the land transfer tax, subsidies from the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, and the rest from other revenues and user fees.[2]

City Council has set the limit of debt charges not to exceed 15% of the property tax revenues.[4] The city has an AA credit rating from Standard & Poor's, and an Aa1 credit rating from Moody's.[5][6][7] Toronto's debt stood at CA$3.9 billion at the end of 2016.[8] Capital expenditures are 39% funded from debt.[8]


The City of Toronto was incorporated in 1834, succeeding York, which was administered directly by the then-province of Upper Canada. The new city was administered by an elected council, which served a one-year term. The first mayor, chosen by the elected councillors, was William Lyon Mackenzie. The first law passed was "an Act for the preventing & extinguishing of Fires".[9] The first mayor directly elected to the post was Adam Wilson, elected in 1859. Through 1955 the term of office for the mayor and council was one year; it then varied between two and three years until a four-year term was adopted starting in 2006. (See List of Toronto municipal elections.)

To finance operations, the municipality levied property taxes. In 1850, Toronto also started levying income taxes.[10] Toronto levied personal income taxes until 1936, and corporate income taxes until 1944.[11]

Until 1914, Toronto grew by annexing neighbouring municipalities such as Parkdale and Seaton Village. After 1914, Toronto stopped annexing bordering municipalities, although some municipalities overwhelmed by growth requested it. After World War II, an extensive group of suburban villages and townships surrounded Toronto.

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

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

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




  1. ^ "Overview - City Manager's Office". Toronto. Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Budget 2017 Charts" (PDF). City of Toronto. Retrieved September 13, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Toronto's Budget: A Decoder". Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  4. ^ "capital_financing.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  5. ^ Moloney, Paul (June 27, 2011). "Toronto debt $4.4B and rising". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Toronto (City of)". Standard & Poor's Ratings Services. McGraw Hill Financial. Retrieved June 21, 2015. 
  7. ^ Heitmann, Kathrin. "Toronto, City of". Moody's. Retrieved June 21, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "2015 Annual Report" (PDF). City of Toronto. Retrieved September 14, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Toronto in 1834". City of Toronto. Retrieved October 2, 2015. 
  10. ^ An Act to establish a more equal and just system of Assessment in the several Townships, Villages, Towns and Cities in Upper Canada, S.Prov.C. 1850, c. 67, s. 4
  11. ^ John Sewell (April 2011). "Letter". The Walrus. Retrieved March 18, 2013. 

External links

  • Government of Toronto website
  • Toronto municipal budget website
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