Women and the New City of Toronto Act

Wednesday, July 28 2010

WHAT IS THE CITY OF TORONTO ACT AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

The City of Toronto Act is provincial legislation that governs the City's operation and powers. It is currently under revision. The revision of the Act addresses numerous issues, including how to create a fair and accountable government structure, how the City should raise revenues (including taxes and cost sharing with other levels of government), the scope of the City's responsibilities, and the corresponding sharing of decision making power.

Decisions about public transit, childcare, social assistance, policing, recreation, housing, community services, solid waste management, new developments, and planning to name a few, impact on our lives as residents in the City of Toronto. Whether we can afford to live and work in Toronto and our quality of life are all affected by the Act. The new City of Toronto Act should give the City the right to chart its own course and to control its decisions, structures, processes and resources.

Many Torontonians are concerned that residents have not had enough information about the proposed changes and process and that this has resulted in limited public awareness about what is happening with the Act and the implications of changing the Act. More women and men need to be made aware of the changes being considered in the Act and should have a say in a new City of Toronto Act. We oppose suggestions by some to concentrate power in the so-called "strong mayor" system and an executive committee. We need to make City Hall more democratic and inclusive, not less. City Hall should not be run as a for-profit private corporation. Let's have diverse women and men participate and enrich decision-making at the City.

WHY SHOULD WOMEN BY CONCERNED ABOUT THE NEW CITY OF TORONTO ACT?

The governing powers, responsibilities, processes and structures of the City of Toronto affect most aspects of all our lives and particularly women's lives. On our limited incomes, we rush from jobs, community work and family responsibilities, face gendered and racial discrimination, and depend on affordable and reliable housing, transit, safety, social and public services more than any other sector in society . This Act will impact the ways in which the City:

WHAT THE CITY OF TORONTO SHOULD BE DOING TO ENSURE DIVERSE WOMEN'S EQUALITY

What will the new City of Toronto Act mean for the diverse women of Toronto? Will the Act simply allow the City to continue ignoring long-standing problems affecting women, such as the lack of subsidized childcare, affordable housing and transportation, jobs, social services, action against the rampant violence against women, and the lack of female representation in consultation and decision-making? Or will the Act recognize that there have been major inequalities in how and which issues get prioritized at City Hall? Will the Act legislate a commitment to address the inequalities that women and other marginalized groups experience? Will the Act ensure that the City takes responsibility and makes a difference in the lives of women?

Good governance cannot be achieved if half of the City’s population is ignored. The City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario need to ensure a commitment to diverse womenâ's concerns by giving women equal input into the City's priorities and decision-making processes. As institutions that exist to serve the public, the Province and the City have a duty to reduce social inequalities by promoting and practicing equality enabling policies and initiatives. Accountability, transparency, inclusiveness, participation, equity, effectiveness and efficiency are key elements for creating good governance.

San Francisco, London, Berlin, Quito, Barcelona, and Cebu and Naga cities in the Philippines implement women's rights and gender equity policies and action plans that address women's concerns and priorities. These cities make these equity plans because the law requires them to do so. For example, the British government, in the /Greater London Authority Act 1999/, legislated the city of London to strategically address various social inequalities based on gender, race, disability, age, and sexual and gender identity. This has led London Council to set priorities and create work plans to achieve social equity in consultation with the communities and to monitor progress of these work plans.

WE WANT THE NEW CITY OF TORONTO ACT TO REQUIRE THE CITY OF ORONTO TO:

1) DISAGGREGATE DATA BY RACE, GENDER AND OTHER SOCIAL CONDITIONS

To enable inclusive policy-making, the City needs to collect gender and race disaggregated data on how women of all backgrounds in Toronto are affected by services, infrastructure, and budget decisions differently than men. This will enable the City to know the extent of the problems facing women, which groups of women are affected, and how. The City cannot formulate and monitor effective solutions if it does not know who it is planning for.

2) ESTABLISH AN OFFICE FOR WOMEN'S EQUALITY

The City needs to establish a women's equality office. The office would be responsible for coordinating and implementing an anti-racist gender equity action plan and gender responsive budgeting initiatives to ensure that the City's decisions and actions are equitable. The office would be accountable to a board, made up of women from the community, City staff, and elected officials. Such an office can ensure that issues affecting women of all backgrounds, such as public safety, violence against women, childcare, poverty, affordable housing, transportation, the environment, urban design, physical planning, and the municipal budget, are addressed systematically and are kept on the City's agenda.

3) ENSURE INCLUSIVE GOVERNANCE AND PARTICIPATION

Diverse women of Toronto should have half of all decision-making power at the City. To ensure that the City's decisions take into account women's concerns and priorities, it is essential that there is parity between women and men on City Council, committees, agencies, boards, commissions, and corporations (ABCCs). Women face several obstacles to becoming political representatives. We tend to have less geopolitical capital - money, networks, and political experience. We are excluded by
an old boy's club, an environment which discourages women from participating, and that does not recognize that care-giving responsibilities for children or elderly family members conflict with the demands of public office. Only 1% of elected women in Canadian municipalities are from racialized groups, less than 1% are women with disabilities, and less than 1% are immigrant women. Marginalized women need skill development and leadership training to successfully participate in municipal processes. Leadership development and mentoring are necessary for increasing participation of diverse women. The new Act must address parity.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE WOMEN MATTER AT CITY HALL & IN THE NEW CITY OF TORONTO ACT

WHO WE ARE

We are members and associates of Toronto Women's Call for Action (www.twca.ca ). We advocate for anti-racist, anti-poverty, women's rights and gender-equity in budgets, plans, programmes and projects. We call for equality and equity in decision-making, control over resources, and benefits and rewards. We call for an analysis based on gender intersecting with race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, sexual and gender identity and Aboriginality. All policies and programmes need to reflect these social realities and identities.
 

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