28-May-2010 by Belinda Cole 
The City of Toronto Act is one law that tells us who has the legal authority to take certain actions on behalf of the City.
Below is a lay summary of the respective roles, responsibilities and legal authority of elected Councillors as compared with those given to non-elected civil servants. In particular, it tells us that City Councillors are responsible for making city-wide policies.
In our park experiences over several years, we have found that many of us - including our elected representatives and government staff at the municipal, provincial and federal levels - are not clear about what the rules say about who can do what.
Below the CELOS summary are some of the key excerpts from the Act. For any updates to the excerpted sections of the Act below, please check the most recent copy of the Act City of Toronto Act, 2006
The Act sets out who does what at City Hall.
City Council has many responsibilities, including the following :
- to represent the public and consider the well-being and interests of the City
- to develop and evaluate policies and programs of the City
- to determine the services the City provides
- to ensure that administrative policies, practices and procedures and controllership policies, practices and procedures are in place to implement Council's decisions
City Staff are responsible to:
- implement Council's decisions and establish administrative policies and procedures to carry out those decisions
- undertake research and provide advice to Council on the City's policies and programs
- carry out other duties required under the Act.
Powers Council can delegate to staff:
The Act permits Council to delegate some of its responsibilities. However, with respect to Council's law-making or "legislative" powers, the Act states that Council cannot delegate legislative power to an employee, officer or agent unless, in Council’s opinion, the power is minor in nature.
“Minor” is determined by such factors as the number of people who are affected by the decision, the size of the geographic area that the rule or law covers and, and the length of time that the rule or law will be in effect.
The purposes and intent behind the City of Toronto Act are also key to the issue of how and by whom the City is to be governed. The “Interpretation” section sets out the “governing principles” to be considered whenever a person or court wants to find out the context in which a law was made. These principles state that:
- the City exists for the purpose of providing good government and
- “the city council is a democratically elected government which is responsible and accountable”.
The City of Toronto Act - Excerpts re: Authority to make policy - Roles of Council vs. staff
PART I INTERPRETATION
1. (1) The City of Toronto exists for the purpose of providing good government with respect to matters within its jurisdiction, and the city council is a democratically elected government which is responsible and accountable.
Purposes of this Act
2. The purpose of this Act is to create a framework of broad powers for the City which balances the interests of the Province and the City and which recognizes that the City must be able to do the following things in order to provide good government:
(2) The City may pass by-laws respecting the following matters:
Delegation of Powers and Duties
General power to delegate
Restriction re: delegation of legislative and quasi-judicial powers
(4) No delegation of a legislative power shall be made to an individual described in clause (1) (c) unless, in the opinion of city council, the power being delegated is of a minor nature and, in determining whether or not a power is of a minor nature, city council, in addition to any other factors council wishes to consider, shall have regard to the number of people, the size of geographic area and the time period affected by an exercise of the power. 2006, c. 11, Sched. A, s. 21 (4).
131. It is the role of city council,
Powers of city council
132. (1) The powers of the City shall be exercised by city council. 2006, c. 11, Sched. A, s. 132 (1).
(3) A power of the City, including the City’s capacity, rights, powers and privileges under section 7, shall be exercised by by-law unless the City is specifically authorized to do otherwise. 2006, c. 11, Sched. A, s. 132 (3). Scope
(4) Subsections (1) to (3) apply to all of the City’s powers, whether conferred by this Act or otherwise. 2006, c. 11, Sched. A, s. 132 (4).
Role of officers and employees
136. It is the role of the officers and employees of the City,
(a) to implement the decisions of city council and to establish administrative practices and procedures to carry out those decisions;
(b) to undertake research and provide advice to city council on the policies and programs of the City; and
(c) to carry out other duties required under this or any Act and other duties assigned by the City. 2006, c. 11, Sched. A, s. 136.