Tales of Two Cities: Women and Municipal Restructuring in London and Toronto.


185 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1278-8
DDC 320.8'5'08209421





Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



Toronto, Ontario, and London, England, are both large cities that were restructured in the late 1990s. In England a number of independent boroughs united into the Greater London Authority. In Ontario, Metro Toronto and several previously self-governing cities were amalgamated into a megacity. These changes in municipal government structure impacted the extent to which citizens were able to be involved in the process of local government, whether by serving on council or holding another public office, involvement on municipal committees, or in other ways participating in decision-making activities.


In an academic paper thick with footnotes, citations, sources, and acronyms, Bashevkin explores how women’s voices fared in the two restructured metropolitan areas. She compares the political climate in the two regions, finding numerous parallels between Margaret Thatcher’s right-leaning stance in England and the hardline conservative agenda of the Mike Harris Tories in Ontario, and looks at how these played out in the largest urban area in each jurisdiction. In London, Ken Livingston was elected mayor and proceeded to increase the opportunities for citizens, especially women, to have input into the governing process. In Toronto, the first megacity mayor was Mel Lastman, eager to implement the provincial Conservatives’ exclusionary agenda. Clearly, women did better in London than in Toronto in achieving a say in concerns such as safety, transportation, housing, the environment, and child care.


The study is based on municipal records and other archival research, plus 68 interviews. The chapters that draw on the interviews are the most readable and do an excellent job of capturing the mood of optimism in London and of pessimism in Toronto. Unfortunately, the language of the rest of the work is a quagmire of academic jargon, thick with terms such as “femocratic units” — that would be women’s groups — “disconfirmed,” “defunded,” and “the discursive dimension.”


Bashevkin, Sylvia B., “Tales of Two Cities: Women and Municipal Restructuring in London and Toronto.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/26779.