At Eye Weekly, Edward Keenan makes the case for bringing parties to municipal politics in Toronto:
The way municipal government in Toronto currently functions is already similar to a party system: right now, the mayor seems to be directly controlling the votes of about 22 councillors. The opposition, organized around the NDP’s unofficial caucus, controls about 14 or 15 votes. The other dozen or so are swing votes. It’s just that everyone pretends there are no teams, because every councillor wants to appear to be a free-thinker, with allegiance only to his or her constituents.
But formalizing party alliances would add some coherence to the debate. Councillors have an obligation to consider their local constituents, while parties could specialize in big-picture, city-wide thinking. Instead of having a single vision—the mayor’s—that each councillor, for varying reasons, is either for or against, we’d have two or three separate articulated visions. The mayor’s proposals could be weighed against alternatives, rather than simply against the status quo.
I do think there’s some merit to the idea, especially as it would serve to codify what already exists. I’d hate for things to get so rigid, though, that council votes would be a foregone conclusion. One of the things that makes council so entertaining is that — despite the whips — votes often go in unexpected and surprising ways.
The real benefit to parties would be that it would force some councillors who like to keep quiet to actually develop principles (and, sure, ideology) rather than tailoring their views to whomever the mayor happens to be.