City Clerk's Office

About your local government

Here's a guide to understanding the three levels of government in Canada, who's who in local government and how decisions are made.

Levels of government

Government of Canada
Government of Ontario
City of Toronto
  • National defence and Canadian Armed Forces
  • Postal service
  • Banking
  • Employment
  • Immigration and citizenship
  • Census
  • Foreign affairs and international trade
  • Agriculture and more
  • Health
  • Education
  • Driver and vehicle licensing
  • Energy
  • Human rights
  • Natural resources
  • Environment
  • Social services and more
  • Water treatment and sewers
  • Parks and recreation centres
  • Libraries
  • Garbage collection
  • Public transit
  • Land use planning
  • Traffic signals
  • Police and fire services
  • Paramedics
  • Homeless shelters
  • Childcare and more

The City of Toronto Act

The City of Toronto Act is legislation provided by the provincial government. The Act gives the City power to make decisions and provide the services and programs the public needs.


How City Council works

City Council is made up of 45 members: the mayor, who is elected city-wide, and 44 councillors who are elected in each ward across the city.

The mayor provides leadership to City Council and:

  • represents Toronto across Canada and around the world
  • works with different levels of government
  • chairs the Executive Committee
  • appoints councillors to chair the standing committees of City Council

Councillors talk to residents, businesses and community groups about City programs and services and listen to their concerns. Councillors:

  • attend City Council and committee meetings
  • sit on the boards of City agencies and corporations
  • propose changes to the decisions City Council makes
  • introduce motions to propose action or raise awareness of issues
  • hold or attend community meetings to get input from the public
  • host or get involved in community events
  • help people access City services

Standing committees make recommendations on city-wide issues, such as parks, budget, roads and bridges, garbage and recycling, housing, planning, economic development, licensing and more. Final decisions are made at City Council meetings. There is an executive committee, chaired by the mayor, as well as seven standing committees.

Community councils make recommendations on local issues such as traffic lights, tree removal, parking permits, fence bylaws, appointments to local boards, local planning and development applications and more. They can make some final decisions without going to City Council. There are four community councils and each represents an area of the city: Etobicoke York, Toronto and East York, North York and Scarborough.

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Boards of agencies and corporations

Boards of agencies and corporations govern and manage various City services on behalf of City Council. Boards of agencies and corporations include both councillors and members of the public who contribute their skills and experience to the running of the City.


How decisions are made

There are several steps in the decision making process and many opportunities for you to get involved.


Accountability officers

The City of Toronto has four accountability officers that help ensure your local government is open and transparent. Each has a different responsibility. The Auditor General audits City programs and conducts fraud and waste investigations. The Integrity Commissioner looks into complaints about members of City Council and local boards. The Lobbyist Registrar manages the public disclosure of lobbying activities and regulation of lobbyists. The Ombudsman addresses concerns about City services and investigates complaints about administrative unfairness.