The Toronto City Council was back to business on Dec. 5, 2018, for the first meeting of the 2018-2022 period.
The councilors had their hands full with a bigger population of their new 25 wards, and the amount of work did not decrease. One of the most heated topics of the day was the availability of resources and staff.
Councilor Paul Ainslie, Ward 43 Scarborough East, proposed a motion to increase the office budgets to 50 thousand dollars, which Councilor Brad Bradford for Ward 19 Beaches-East York said is representative of the fact that now councilors have to “do more with less”.
“You need to make sure that you have staff and resources in place to be at the meetings, to respond to the phone calls,” said Bradford. “The office budget piece is an opportunity where every councilor can try to find those savings.”
Bradford said that the motion will increase the staffing budget, allowing the councilors to be more efficient in the new wards set up.
The volume of the meetings and the committees are two of the many challenges that the councilors face in a job that was split between two people. The issues are different across the 25 wards, and some councilors can already feel the shortage of hands: in a media scrum, Councilor Bradford pointed to multiple conflicts he faced Tuesday.
Increasing the ward size but leaving one person to do the job raised concerns among residents, Councilor Ainslie told the media. He said that his staff is expected to get back to the residents within 24 hours. He also put forward a motion for doubling the office salary to maintain that level of service.
Councilor Jim Karygiannis, Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt, said that the Council is “shortchanging” the constituents.
“I had a budget of 34 thousand dollars in order to reach out and now I have a budget of 50,” said Karygiannis. “That should have doubled at twice the ward. And, definitely, we need that extra budget in order to reach out.”
He also spoke against the salary increase to new councilors.
“I made a pledge that I will not be supporting an increase and I will not be supporting an increase in my salary,” said Karygiannis. “I don’t think I deserve, or I need, or I must get an increase in salary.”
The 25 new councilors voted 18-8 in favour of Councilor Paul Ainslie’s motion to set the 2019 annual Councillor office budget envelope at 50 thousand dollars.