Proposal for the Province of Toronto

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A map of the Greater Toronto Area with the City of Toronto and the four surrounding regional municipalities.

The Province of Toronto is an urban secession proposal to split the city of Toronto and some or all of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)[1] from the province of Ontario into a new Canadian province. Secession of Toronto, the surrounding region, or any other portion of the province from Ontario to create a new province would require an amendment to the Constitution of Canada.[2][3]

The proposal for a new province of Toronto has been made by politicians and urban affairs commentators, in 2010 by MPP Bill Murdoch,[4] and most recently by 2018 Toronto mayoral candidate and former Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat.[5] The concept has also been supported by Jane Jacobs and others.[4]

Variations of the proposal have appeared intermittently for decades.[6]

In fact, the remedy he proposes has been discussed, off-and-on for decades, by a variety of urban advocates dedicated to securing more power, autonomy and clout for Canada's largest city.

— Editorial, "Should Toronto be a province?", Toronto Star[6]


Arguments posited for Toronto or GTA provincehood include those stating that the area's residents are politically and economically exploited by the rest of the province.[6] Another argument presented is the urban issues faced by Toronto not present in other cities or rural areas of Ontario, including the delivery of public services to large numbers of immigrants and visible minorities,[1][7] gun control,[1] and differences in the delivery of education and health care to its residents.[1] A federal political issue is the Greater Toronto Area's under-representation in the House of Commons.[1]

The Toronto region, with a population of almost six million, is under-represented in the Commons with fewer seats than its population warrants.

— Jim Coyle, "Toronto secede? Where's the door?", Toronto Star[1]

Murdoch's proposal was motivated by a contrary sentiment, that the rural areas of Ontario have little clout in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario compared to Toronto.[1][3][8] Andrew Steele, in an editorial in The Globe and Mail, stated that Murdoch was instead speaking to the rural base of voters in his constituency and calling for the separation of rural Ontario from Toronto.[9] Another argument sometimes presented to support a split of Toronto from the province is that politicians from other cities in the province are concerned about their influence on provincial politics.[10]

He said rural Ontario is fighting a losing battle against "a Toronto mentality," adding that Toronto decision-makers ignore rural voices.

— The Canadian Press, "MPP's vision: Province of Toronto", Toronto Star[3]

Glen Murray has stated that Canadian cities must rely on property taxes, as they have no ability to enact other taxes or collect income or consumption taxes.

Cities - largely reliant on stagnant property taxes - need access to growing revenue sources such as the income tax, and consumption taxes such as the GST, the PST and the gas tax, Murray says. And they need the power to spend that money for the good of their residents without having to ask the province for permission.

— Laurie Monsebraaten, "Toronto the could...", Toronto Star[11]


The Province of Toronto was first proposed as the name of the province of Ontario during the debates leading to Canadian Confederation in 1867.[12] British imperial officials considered the name after noting that Quebec City was the capital of Quebec,[12] and hence Toronto should be the capital of a similarly named province. The idea had little traction and was dismissed in favour of using the same name for the province as the lake adjacent to its capital city,[12] Lake Ontario.

The provincehood movement idea has been supported by the urban activist Jane Jacobs and urban planner Joe Berridge.[1][13] Jacobs viewed Toronto as a region, which was split into multiple jurisdictions as an artefact of historical politics.[14]

In the 1970s, Paul Godfrey presented to the Royal Commission on Metropolitan Toronto, as chairman of Metropolitan Toronto, arguments that the region should have the capability to set policy as does a provincial government.[4]

Back in the 1970s, Paul Godfrey, when he was Metro chair, argued before the Royal Commission on Metropolitan Toronto that the region should have the range and flexibility of a province in its decision making.

— Vanessa Lu, "Should Toronto go it alone?", Toronto Star[4]

In 1991 academic and future member of parliament Ted McWhinney argued before a parliamentary committee that if Quebec were to separate Ontario would need to be broken up to rebalance confederation. According to McWhinney, splitting off Toronto would be the most sensible option, pointing to Germany where Hamburg and Berlin have their own states as an example.[15]

Mel Lastman proposed Toronto provincehood in 1999 while attending the Mayors Summit of the Americas in Miami, Florida;[16][17] he later retracted his comments, but by then, they had already spurred discussion of the idea in the media.[17] Lastman was panned in an editorial by The Hamilton Spectator for not having considered all the consequences of provincehood.[18] Debate flourished, as various proposals were presented, including one for the creation of the Province of Southern Ontario[17] and another for the creation of a city-state status in Canada,[11] which could also include Vancouver and Montreal.[17] The Committee for the Province of Toronto was formed to seek a constitutional amendment enabling the formation of a new province.[17] On 9 February 1999, councillor Michael Walker presented a notice of motion to Toronto City Council on behalf of the committee.[19] Lastman also considered issuing a plebiscite to the residents of Toronto about Toronto provincehood.[20]

"I'm in favour of it considering it and thinking about it", the mayor said, adding the secession question could be put to Torontonians as early as the municipal election in November, 2000.

— Robert Benzie, "Lastman mulls referendum on city secession", National Post[20]

These debates faded, but did result in negotiation between the City of Toronto government and the provincial government about greater autonomy for Toronto, which eventually resulted in new legislation "The Stronger City of Toronto for a Stronger Ontario Act",[17] as well as the City of Toronto Act[4] which granted the city more policy-setting powers; it has used these, for example, to define new taxes, and to ban corporate and union donations for municipal election campaigns.[4] It also indirectly influenced federal policy, as the New Deal for Cities in 2003 was one of the platforms for Paul Martin[17] after he succeeded Jean Chrétien as Prime Minister of Canada.

Tooker Gomberg who placed second to Lastman in the 2000 mayoral election, also favoured the idea.[21] In November 2000, just before the election, he stated that "the province of Toronto idea, though it's a long shot and a long-term solution, is something I favour. It's a compelling idea whose time has not quite come."[22]

At a meeting of the Bruce County Federation of Agriculture in 2010, a Member of Provincial Parliament from central Ontario, Bill Murdoch, suggested that the city of Toronto become its own province,[23][24] but the other parts of the GTA (also known as the 905) would remain in Ontario,[3][25] proposing its new capital to be London.[24] David Miller, mayor of Toronto, responded by issuing a message via Twitter, stating "Province of Toronto... an idea whose time has come?",[25][26] and his spokesman Stuart Green indicated that Miller would consider a public debate about the possible secession of Toronto from Ontario,[25] and Murdoch stated that he received an email from Miller also indicating he was agreeable to a discussion about it.[27] Murdoch had considered presenting a private member's bill[4][25] to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario about this proposal. Thunder Bay mayor Lynn Peterson opposed Murdoch's proposal, stating that one of the perceived issues was inconsequential, specifically that policies defined in the Ontario legislature are not Toronto-centric.[28] Michael Gravelle, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, said "I look at it from the perspective of would this be good for Northern Ontario . . . and I don't think it would be".[28]

In 2018, some activists revived the proposal again, after Ontario premier Doug Ford introduced legislation to reduce Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 seats, months after the 2018 municipal election was already underway.[29]

Constitutional amendment[edit]

For any part of Toronto and the surrounding region to secede from Ontario to create a new province would require an amendment to the Constitution of Canada.[2][3] The constitutional amendment would require resolutions from the House of Commons of Canada and the Senate of Canada, and resolutions from the legislative bodies of 7 of the provinces representing at least 50% of the population.[30]

However, it has also been suggested that such an amendment may not be necessary if the federal and provincial government agree to split the province.[10]

Expert opinion suggests it might not require a constitutional amendment. If there was agreement between the feds and the legislature to divide the province, presto, Canada's first and second largest province could apparently be created overnight.

— Don Martin, "Toronto as 11th province not all that far-fetched", Calgary Herald[10]

By the numbers[edit]

With 2.6 million residents as of 2016, the city of Toronto is more populous than six provinces: namely, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. With a population of over 6 million, the Greater Toronto Area is more populous than those six, as well as Alberta and British Columbia.

The Province of Toronto would become the second smallest in Canada by area, larger only than Prince Edward Island, whose area is 5,660 km2, but would become the third most populous province in Canada only after Quebec and the resized Ontario.

Name Total area (km2) Rank Population est 2011[31] Rank
Existing Province of Ontario 1,076,395 2 of 10 12,851,821 1 of 10
Existing City of Toronto 630 n/a 2,615,060 n/a
Regional Municipality of Durham 2,523.15 n/a 608,124 n/a
Regional Municipality of Halton 967.17 n/a 501,669 n/a
Regional Municipality of Peel 1,241.99 n/a 1,296,814 n/a
Regional Municipality of York 1,761.84 n/a 1,032,524 n/a
Resized Province of Ontario 1,069,270.85 2 of 11 6,797,630 2 of 11
Combined Province of Toronto 7,124.15 10 of 11 6,054,191 3 of 11

If the boundaries were redefined to also include the adjacent city of Hamilton to turn the contiguous Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area into the new province of Toronto, it would supersede the resized province of Ontario as the 2nd largest province by population.

Name Total area (km2) Rank Population est 2011 Rank
City of Hamilton 1138.11 n/a 519,949 n/a
Resized Province of Ontario 1,068,132.74 2 of 11 6,277,681 3 of 11
Combined Province of Toronto 8,262.26 10 of 11 6,574,140 2 of 11

Political party[edit]

Registration for the Province of Toronto Party was accepted by Elections Ontario on 18 June 2001, and became effective on 1 July that year.[32] One of its founding members was David Vallance.[33][34] Members of the party contested for the mayorship of Toronto in the 2003 and 2006 municipal elections.

Paul Lewin's campaign in the 2003 mayoral election used the slogan "Free 416", referring to the regional use of the city's area code as a nickname,[35] while advocating a Province of Toronto.[35][36] He fared poorly in the municipal election.[37]

David Vallance was the 2006 candidate for the mayoral election in Toronto. He has written several Letters to the Editor over the years on various matters, including the state of Toronto's provincial tax burden.[38] He was a vocal opponent of the amalgamation of the old City of Toronto with neighbouring municipalities in 1997, and led the group Taxpayers Against Megacity.[39][40][41] He had previously campaigned for city council in the 1997 municipal election as an extension of his anti-megacity campaign, and also advocated property tax reforms.[42] In 2006, he argued that Torontonians should "take control of our own taxes and control our own destiny".[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Coyle, Jim (17 March 2010). "Toronto secede? Where's the door?". Toronto Star. Star Media Group. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Amendment by general procedure". Constitution Act, 1982. Department of Justice, Government of Canada. Retrieved 17 March 2010. An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made only in accordance with subsection 38(1)...notwithstanding any other law or practice, the establishment of new provinces.
  3. ^ a b c d e "MPP's vision: Province of Toronto". Toronto Star. Owen Sound: Star Media Group. The Canadian Press. 16 March 2010. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Lu, Vanessa (16 March 2010). "Should Toronto go it alone?". Toronto Star. Star Media Group. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  5. ^ @jen_keesmaat (27 July 2018). "Now I have had a chance to sleep on it. Secession. Why should a city of 2.8 million not have self governance?" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  6. ^ a b c "Should Toronto be a province?". Toronto Star. Star Media Group. 18 March 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  7. ^ Hume, Christopher (2 May 2009). "Toronto needs 'powers of a province'". Toronto Star. Retrieved 20 April 2010. Broadbent notes, for example, Toronto receives nearly half the newcomers who arrive in Canada annually, but it has no control over services that affect them most, including education and health care.
  8. ^ Couvrette, Phil (16 March 2010). "Ontario politician wants Toronto to become a province". National Post. Archived from the original on 24 March 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2010. Bill Murdoch, a Conservative member of the Ontario legislature, who represents the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, says Toronto should form Canada's newest province because communities outside the metropolis are simply not being heard.
  9. ^ Steele, Andrew (17 March 2010). "Progressive Conservative separatists". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 20 April 2010. More importantly, that's not who Murdoch is talking to. He's talking to the rural base of the PC Party.
  10. ^ a b c Martin, Don (18 March 2010). "Toronto as 11th province not all that far-fetched". Calgary Herald. Secondary cities like Ottawa, Hamilton, Windsor, Sudbury and Thunder Bay support the partition idea because they increasingly see themselves as mere specks on a provincial radar ignored in the blinding glare of Toronto's political desires.
  11. ^ a b Monsebraaten, Laurie (6 November 2003). "Toronto the could; Why the city falls way short of its potential What our next mayor, Liberals can do to fix it". Toronto Star. p. G20. Retrieved 19 March 2010. Many say it needs city-state status with new powers and revenues to compete on the national and international stage.
  12. ^ a b c White, Randall (1985). Ontario, 1610-1985: a political and economic history. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-919670-98-3. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  13. ^ Iyyer, Chaitanya (2009). Land Management: Challenges & Strategies. Global India Publications. ISBN 978-93-8022-848-8. In Toronto no such relief occurred but a Province of Toronto movement emerged under Jane Jacobs (who had moved to Toronto in the 1960s and again fought expressways penetrating the downtown there, notably the Spadina Expressway...
  14. ^ Hume, Christopher (20 March 2010). "Getting past the punchlines about Toronto the province". Toronto Star. Retrieved 20 April 2010. Toronto is a region and should not be confined by an artificial boundary drawn more than a century ago," Jacobs wrote. "Whether people live in Swansea or Buttonville, Erindale or Dunbarton, the point at which their lives converge with others is in the new Toronto.
  15. ^ "Province of Toronto: Prof sees Ontario being split up after Quebec separates". Kitchener - Waterloo Record. Kitchener. 22 February 1991. p. D.8.
  16. ^ Wanagan, Don. "His Melness asks 'why not?'". National Post. "We can't afford to stay part of the province of Ontario," the mayor mused from Miami last week, where he was attending the Mayors Summit of the Americas.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Boudreau, Julie-Anne; Keil, Roger; Young, Douglas (2009). Changing Toronto: Governing Urban Neoliberalism. University of Toronto Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-1-4426-0093-5.
  18. ^ "Lastman's latest wacky ramblings". The Hamilton Spectator. Torstar Corporation. 23 November 1999. p. A.12. Retrieved 20 April 2010. He hasn't bothered to ask the rest of Ontario for its reaction to his proposal, or studied the potential costs and drawbacks for those of us who don't live in the big enchilada.
  19. ^ Robert Young; Christian Leuprecht (2006). Canada: The State of the Federation, 2004, Municipal-federal-provincial Relations in Canada. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-55339-016-9. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  20. ^ a b Benzie, Robert. "Lastman mulls referendum on city secession". National Post. Mel Lastman is considering a referendum so residents can vote on whether the city should pursue secession from Ontario.
  21. ^ Hubley, Craig (29 March 2004). "Ten thousand Tookers". Eulogies for Tooker. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2010. Nailing a proclamation of independence for Province of Toronto, right to Queen's Park's door.
  22. ^ James, Royson James (3 November 2000). "Behind the act, Gomberg aims for protest vote". Toronto Star. p. B.01.
  23. ^ Jeffords, Shawn (March 2010). "Province of Toronto gets mixed reviews". The Observer. Sun Media. Archived from the original on 24 March 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  24. ^ a b Crosby, Don (16 March 2010). "MPP says it's time for Toronto to separate from the province". The Brantford Expositor. Sun Media. QMI Agency. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  25. ^ a b c d "Toronto should separate from Ontario: MPP". CBC News. 16 March 2010. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  26. ^ Miller, David (16 March 2010). "Province of idea whose time has come?". Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  27. ^ Couvrette, Phil (16 March 2010). "Ontario politician wants Toronto to become a province". National Post. Canwest News Service. Archived from the original on 24 March 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  28. ^ a b Walker, Brandon (22 March 2010). "Toronto has fans". The Chronicle Journal. Thunder Bay. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2010. Peterson said she doesn't believe Queen's Park sets policies based on Toronto or that its separation would allow Thunder Bay to set its own energy rates.
  29. ^ "9 questions about Toronto secession you were too embarrassed to ask". Toronto Star, 3 August 2018.
  30. ^ "General procedure for amending Constitution of Canada". Constitution Act, 1982. Department of Justice, Government of Canada. Archived from the original on 5 January 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  31. ^ "Population and Dwelling Count Highlight Tables, 2011 Census". 7 January 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  32. ^ "REQUESTS TO REGISTER THE NAME OF A NEW POLITICAL PARTY IN ONTARIO". Party names. Elections Ontario, Government of Ontario. Archived from the original on 14 March 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
  33. ^ Vallance, David (14 January 2002). "Unless it separates, city will remain an afterthought". Toronto Star; Letters to the Editor. p. A15. For that reason, we have registered the name Province of Toronto Party in an attempt to establish a provincial party with the sole agenda of making Toronto a province.
  34. ^ "Make the city a province". Toronto Star. 16 February 2002. p. B5. Citing the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on Quebec's legal ability to separate, he says there's no reason Toronto can't do same thing as Nunavut, when it sprang from the Northwest Territories.
  35. ^ a b James, Royson (3 September 2003). "A voice of dissent lost in high noon din". Toronto Star. Toronto. p. B5. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  36. ^ Hume, Christopher (5 September 2003). "Province of T.O.: It makes sense". Toronto Star. Toronto. p. B3. He was 36 years old at the time. See Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11.
  37. ^ touby, Frank (April 2005). "New movement declares: 'Province of Toronto is possible'" (PDF). The Bulletin. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2010. Lewin, who finished far behind the five frontrunners, has said he will gladly step aside for a better known mayoral candidate who will pursue separation from Ontario.
  38. ^ Vallance, David Vallance (19 December 2003). "Province must stop its tax grab". Toronto Star; Letters to the Editor. p. A31.
  39. ^ Small, Peter (30 June 1995). "Property taxes hit women who rent, mayor is told". Toronto Star. p. A10.
  40. ^ Caroline Mallan; Theresa Boyle (2 January 1997). "Megacity is hot topic at levees". Toronto Star. p. A7.
  41. ^ Talaga, Tanya (25 January 1997). "Megacity foes rush to barricades". Toronto Star. p. A1.
  42. ^ Sewell, John (30 October 1997). "Midtown licks wounds and gets ready to vote". Now Magazine. Archived from the original on 17 June 2006. Retrieved 22 January 2007.
  43. ^ "Toronto Mayoral Race". Toronto Star. 9 November 2006. p. G1.

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