Movement for Municipal Reform (ReforMetro)

The Movement for Municipal Reform (often called ReforMetro) was created in Toronto in 1975. Its purpose was to establish and institutionalize close linkages among community organizers, left-wing city aldermen (as they were still called at that time), and their constituents (primarily in working-class wards). All leftist city aldermen were in favour of ReforMetro except for John Sewell, who said that he was worried about being under the control of an unrepresentative body.

The Movement for Municipal Reform was very much opposed to urban sprawl and it felt that cars and cities were incompatible. It advocated for bike lanes, and opposed hikes to transit fares.

It also was opposed to expansion of the city in order to protect the surrounding greenbelt, and its environmental goals included significant reduction of household garbage through city laws restricting the sale of wasteful products. In the mid-1970s, ReforMetro was already advocating for retrofitting buildings and homes in order to make them more energy efficient.

ReforMetro was allied with the tenants’ movement in Toronto, where statistics at the time showed that at least 67% of people lived in rental housing. ReforMetro considered housing to be a public utility in which profit-making should not occur. ReforMetro wanted tight restrictions on private landlords, rent controls, and the expansion of public housing under community control. In the long-term, it even expressed a desired goal of public ownership of all land in the city.

The organization advocated for an extended land-speculation tax, as well as laws to make foreign and non-resident ownership of Toronto buildings and homes illegal. ReforMetro did research that showed the city was failing to collect about $75 million per year in property taxes, so the organization urged City Council to tax all property without exceptions. In the midst of budget cutting by provincial and federal governments, ReforMetro advocated for a city tax on industry located in Toronto in order to fund public education.

ReforMetro also supported existing community-controlled services and wanted them to expand; for example, it advocated for community-controlled neighbourhood health-care clinics and universally accessible, free, high-quality day-care.

ReforMetro often clashed with members of the New Democratic Party (NDP), who were suspicious of anything that looked like a political rival. NDPers appear to have considered the ReforMetro uninterested in the issues most important to organized labour. In turn, ReforMetro members often felt that the NDP was not interested in community issues. ReforMetro played an active role in endorsing candidates for municipal elections, but after John Sewell was elected Mayor of Toronto in 1978, the Movement for Municipal Reform started losing active membership, with some ward organizations struggling to maintain quorums at their meetings. By 1980, it was clear that ReforMetro was no longer viable.

Related Topics:
Municipal PoliticsNew Democratic Party (NDP)Toronto/City Politics

A number of issues of the ReforMetro newsletter have been digitized and are available online here.