The purpose of this paper is to describe the way in which policy decisions have been made by the government of Metropolitan Toronto during its first twelve years of operation, and to set policy-making in the broader context of interest-group and electoral politics in the Toronto area. I begin with some comments on the structure of Metro government and on the current debate over Metro’s successes and failures.
The Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto was a major breakthrough in the post-war drive for reorganization of local governments in metropolitan areas. As the inability of small, autonomous local governments to deal with metropolitan problems became apparent, most North American metropolitan areas began considering various devices for meeting region-wide needs. Metro Toronto, created in 1953 by an act of the Ontario legislature, is the oldest example of what has become known as the metropolitan federation plan, a device subsequently adopted for the Miami and Winnipeg metropolitan areas.
The 1953 provincial statute setting up Metro brought the City of Toronto and twelve suburbs under the umbrella of a new regional government, but did not alter any municipal boundaries in the area. A few powers were shifted to the Metro level, a few were left solely with the municipalities. A majority of powers, however, were to be shared by both levels of government. Metro was dominant in the fields of public transportation, property assessment, capital borrowing, highway construction, and the construction of water and sewer facilities; the municipalities were dominant in the fields of zoning, housing, welfare, police, fire, licensing, and traffic control. The only major change in this 1953 division of powers occurred in 1956, when policing and licensing functions were amalgamated–that is, shifted from the municipal to the Metro level.