News / Toronto

'Get in, do a good job, get out': Why this city councillor imposed her own term limit

Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon has voluntarily taken herself out of the game— and says term limits may be the key to making City Hall more diverse.

Mary-Margaret McMahon will not seek re-election in the municipal election next year. The Ward 32 Beaches/East York member of council was first elected in 2010 and again in 2014.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Mary-Margaret McMahon will not seek re-election in the municipal election next year. The Ward 32 Beaches/East York member of council was first elected in 2010 and again in 2014.

It may be a year away, but Mary-Margaret McMahon already knows what she's doing next October. Not running for city council again.

The two-time Beaches-East York councillor announced this week her name won't be on the ballot in the 2018 municipal election because she feels her term is up.

There's no term limits for local politicians, like there are for U.S. presidents, but that's something McMahon thinks needs to change.

"In 2010 I ran on democratic reform and promised to do two terms," she told Metro.

"To get in, do a good job, get out. Hand it over to someone else."

McMahon believes set term limits would help get new faces— especially women, people of colour and younger candidates— onto Toronto city council. Out of 44 Toronto city councillors, only 14 are women. The sole woman of colour is Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

There are only six councillors who are from visible minorities out of 44.

"It's not a level playing field right now. It's almost impossible to unseat an incumbent," said McMahon.

Incumbents have name recognition, she added, which is hard for newcomers to overcome and "turn over is abysmal."

Mayor John Tory weighed at city hall Monday morning telling reporters that Toronto is "clearly as a city council not representative of the backgrounds of the people who live in the city that we serve."

While he won't be making term limits a part of his own platform, he does support ranked ballots, and said council needs to look for ways to get "more fresh blood into the council, more new ideas" on board.

Hema Vyas, co-chair of Women Win Toronto— a group that is organizing around trying to get more women on council— said while she agrees that term limits could be helpful, they're only part of the puzzle, along with training for diverse candidates and possibly other forms of electoral reform such as ranked ballots.

"Certainly incumbency's a big challenge to get fresh faces on council, but I think in and of itself, it wouldn't necessarily get underrepresented groups or more women on council."

McMahon said she's not sure what she'll do after leaving council chambers, but she'll continue to advocate for democratic reform. 

She encourages other councillors to consider "handing over the torch" and "leave the party while you're still having fun, and city build on the outside.”

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