20 years ago today, Toronto elected its first megacity mayor

Toronto is celebrating a milestone today.

It was 20 years ago you elected the leader of the about-to-be unified megacity. Mel Lastman became Mayor of Toronto.

In April 1997 the provincial government under Mike Harris voted to amalgamate Toronto, York, North York, East York, Etobicoke and Scarborough.

They did so, despite the results of a nonbinding referendum, where most voters in all six municipalities opposed the idea.

It lead to protests involving thousands of people.

The merger didn't take effect until January 1, 1998. The number of municipal politicians representing the area dropped from 100 to 45.

Doctor Neil Thomlinson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University.

20 years later, he says amalgamation has been a success in some ways but, "a miserable failure in other ways."

He says it's been harder for people to feel engaged with their city and that there used to be "robust discussions," at committee meetings. 

"Now, you have to make your appointment three months in advance and if you get on the speakers list, you'd be lucky," he says.

Amalgamation also hasn't saved the $300 million a year the Harris government had promised.