Therefore, it was amusing to see Toronto’s Mayor Friday night generating a carnival atmosphere in Scarborough as the backdrop for his announcement of Norm Kelly as deputy mayor. It was peculiar, too, because the current deputy mayor Doug Holyday is still there, on a leave of absence to run in a provincial by-election. That city councillors can “seat-warm” – vacate an elected post to seek an upper-tier office – is another story. (Two sitting councillors are vying to be Etobicoke-Lakeshore’s next MPP.)
Ribbon cuttings, flag raisings and community events tend to flow the deputy mayor’s way. He or she is on the mayor’s rubber chicken dinner circuit, rubbing shoulders, pumping fists, shaking hands, reading out proclamations and prepared texts.
Tiny Township, Havelock, South Stormont, Amherstburg, Georgina, Deseronto, Perth, Melancthon, Adjala and Midland have deputy mayors, along with places such as Toronto. This is a small number compared to those who don’t.
There’s a difference between a deputy mayor and an Acting Mayor. Usually a city will have a system of monthly rotation for councillors to serve as Acting Mayor when the real mayor is out-of-town, unwilling, ill, (or in rehab). This is a fair and responsible way to divide the responsibilities that a mayor cannot do.
A Deputy Mayor serves for the life of the term of office, or at the mayor’s pleasure. In Toronto, deputy mayoralties need to be questioned.
The chosen councillor becomes pointedly beholden to the mayor. If he wants to hold on to the high-profile perquisite, he must agree with the mayor, vote with the mayor and promote the mayor’s agenda even though a majority of his constituents did not vote for the mayor.
Nothing against Norm Kelly, he’s practically a barnacle on the political bandwagon he’s been around so long. My issue is this business of Toronto having an appointed figurehead, not elected citywide, doing the work a mayor ought to be doing and shutting out other members of council. That doesn’t breed a collegial environment. You don’t have to live in Toronto to know that the place is politically dysfunctional, if not downright toxic.
As Tom Mills, of Sun Media, points out perceptively in his Sault Star column on this in February. “A deputy mayor allied with the mayor might intensify battles.”
Read Tom’s article, “The Deputy Mayor Question”, here.