Toronto Should Be Canada's 11th Province

This is not Mel Lastman talking, it's me. Although I was born in the city of Toronto, I don't live there. I now reside in Kitchener, well outside of the 416 and 905 area codes that have become associated with the extent of the Greater Toronto Area. I intend to stay in my city for the foreseeable future, so I have no reason to whine that Toronto is hard-done by and should separate to look after its own affairs. But it may be in Ontario's best interest, as well as Toronto's, to break the province in half.

The Greater Toronto Area is a socially and economically interdependent region of over 5 million souls. Currently, it is governed by two megacities, five regional governments, and over two dozen lower-tier municipalities. People cross these artificial political boundaries with impunity, and as many as 3 million more people are expected to join the traffic in the next thirty years.

Under the current scenario, there is little hope of a coordinated vision for sensible urban planning and economic development in the GTA. Frankly, it is a miracle that the member municipalities cooperate as much as they do in attracting international investment to the region. There is a desperate need for a coordinated transportation plan, waste management plan, infrastructure plan and all sorts of other plans if we want our quality of life to remain as it is or improve over the next three decades.

Back in 1954, the Province of Ontario saw something similar happening with the City of Toronto and its twelve surrounding suburban municipalities. The province acted to create a regional federation uniting the area under a single coordinating government. This act was responsible for Toronto's prosperity over the next four decades. The best solution to the GTA's Balkanizataion is the creation of another regional government, this one stretching around the Golden Horseshoe from Niagara Falls to Oshawa and north to Lake Simcoe.

But, hold on: The Province faced a similar scenario in 1967 and backed off expanding Metro's boundaries. Metropolitan Toronto was big government; any bigger, and it would rival Queen's Park in prominence. A Regional Municipality of the Golden Horseshoe would have half of the province's population and contribute more than half of Ontario's taxes. It is asking too much for Queen's Park to create something that is at least as powerful as itself.

So, if the province can't create an agency to manage the GTA's development, then the province will have to manage that development themselves. That's what they did in 1967, and they can't avoid the matter now. Without coherent management, the Greater Toronto Area will suffer economically. As Toronto suffers, so does the rest of the province. GTA residents, on average, contribute $5000 per household per year to the rest of the province for government services they themselves do not receive.

But here's the catch: if Queen's Park takes up the role as the regional manager of the GTA, the North, the Southwest and the East will all say (quite understandibly) "what about us? What about our issues? Don't we rate as well?" Provincial governments have fallen before because they tied themselves up in "Toronto issues".

As the Greater Toronto Area becomes more and more distinct from the rest of Ontario, it may be in the best interest for Toronto and the rest of Ontario to go their separate ways. This way, the GTA gets the provincial powers it needs to manage its own affairs, and the rest of Ontario is left to govern itself without distraction.

It probably won't happen. The rest of Canada will not like to have an eleventh seat placed at the provincial table, especially if that extra province is a Mini Me equivalent of Ontario. But Ontario faces tough decisions in the next ten years, and will have to think creatively in order solve the problems. Making Toronto the eleventh province and allowing it to get on with the job is about as creative as one can get.

blog comments powered by Disqus