Municipal government of Toronto

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Logo of The City of Toronto

The municipal government 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 (currently Joseph Pennachetti[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, and has an operating budget of $7.8 billion. The most recent operating budget was composed of $2.5 billion of funds from the Government of Ontario for purposes they mandate such as Toronto Public Health, $2.0 billion for special purpose bodies including the Toronto Public Library and Toronto Zoo, $1.7 billion of directly controlled money, and $900 million for capital financing and other programs.[2]

The city's net debt stood at $4.4 billion as of the end of 2010 and has an AA credit rating from Standard & Poor's, and an Aa1 credit rating from Moody's.[3][4][5] Toronto is expected to pay $400 million of the debt in 2011.[3] The city's debt increased by $721 million in 2010.[3]


The City of Toronto was incorporated in 1834, succeeding York, Upper Canada. The first mayor was William Lyon Mackenzie. The first law passed was "an Act for the preventing & extinguishing of Fires".[6]

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.

These thirteen townships, villages, towns, and cities continued to exist independently of the regional government, and continued to provide some local services to their residents. Gradually, the Metro government began taking over management of services that crossed municipal boundaries, most notably highways, water, and public transit.

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". Many people criticised this change, which came on top of a massive "downloading" of provincial services to the municipal level, with little to no new revenue available. A plebiscite indicated that a majority of the citizens of Toronto opposed amalgamation, but criticisms were raised about the leading nature of the question asked.[according to whom?] In Canada (and Ontario), plebiscites are not legally binding. The Province of Ontario under Premier Mike Harris had the power to ignore the result and did so. Mel Lastman, the long-time mayor of North York before the amalgamation, was the first mayor of the new "megacity" of Toronto, which is the successor of the previous City of Toronto.


  • Facilities & Real Estate
  • Finance & Administration
  • Special Events
  • Financial Planning
  • Special Projects
  • Strategic Communications
  • Fleet Services
  • Human Resources
  • Toronto Building
  • Human Rights Office
  • Toronto Environment Office
  • Information & Technology
  • Toronto Office of Partnerships
  • Legal Services
  • Licensing & Standards
  • Waterfront Secretariat




  1. ^ "Overview - City Manager's Office". Toronto. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Corporate and Human Resources (7 March 2005). "Toronto Fact Sheet – 2005 Operating Budget – Where the Money Goes" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-06-09. 
  3. ^ a b c Moloney, Paul (June 27, 2011). "Toronto debt $4.4B and rising". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Toronto (City of)". Standard & Poor's Ratings Services. McGraw Hill Financial. Retrieved 21 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Heitmann, Kathrin. "Toronto, City of". Moody's. Retrieved 21 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "Toronto in 1834". City of Toronto. Retrieved October 2, 2015. 

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