2. Find out when and where to make your public deputation
a. What committee should you present your deputation to?
b. When and where is the next committee meeting?
3. Reserve a spot on the speaker list with the Committee Clerk
4. Prepare your public deputation
5. Present your public deputation
6. Follow up
What is a public deputation?
A deputation is a short statement made by an individual, group of people, or representative of a larger group in a formal procedure. In Toronto, public deputations are presented to the City’s committees, sub-committees, and community councils that report to City Council. These committees hold regular meetings to discuss relevant committee issues and welcome members of the public to make a deputation, or send in written comments on specific items. Committees then make recommendations to City Council for a final decision.
Public deputations are important in the decision-making process as they allow constituents to officially voice their views or concerns about a particular matter. Anyone can make a deputation – it is your right as a constituent to do so!
The City of Toronto has published an overview of the procedures for making public deputations here.
This guide provides five steps for presenting a public deputation:
1. Find out when and where to make your public deputation
2. Reserve a spot on the speaker list with the Committee Clerk
3. Prepare your public deputation
4. Present your public deputation
5. Follow up
The committee that you present your deputation to will depend on your issue or concern. With over 60 committees, sub-committees and community councils, finding an appropriate committee related to your issue can be confusing! There are several types of committees, each with their own area of consideration:
- Considers planning and neighbourhood matters for their part of the city.
- Community councils report to City Council, but also have final decision-making power on certain items, such as sign and fence by-law exemptions.
- Community councils: Etobicoke York, North York, Scarborough, Toronto and East York
Standing Policy Committees:
- Distinct mandates in areas of public service delivery and corporate operations, including: monitoring current program delivery, service levels and emerging issues, and recommending policy and program changes.
- Examples of standing policy committees: Community Development and Recreation, Licensing and Standards, and Parks and Environment
- Monitors and makes recommendations on the priorities, plans, international and intergovernmental relations, and the financial integrity of the City, including financial planning and budgeting, council and its operations, and fiscal policy.
- Makes recommendations or refers to another committee any matter not within their mandate or that relates to more than one standing committee.
- Several committees report mainly to the Executive, including: Affordable Housing Committee, Budget Committee, and Employee and Labour Relations Committee
Other Committees of Council:
- Members of Council also serve on these committees that report directly to Council, including: Civic Appointments Committee, Board of Health, and Audit Committee
To find out more information on each of Toronto’s committees, sub-committees, and community councils, visit the Toronto City Council and Committees website. On each committee’s website, you’ll find information on:
- What issues the committee oversees
- Upcoming and past scheduled meetings (with related meeting agendas, minutes, committee decisions, and background reports)
- Committee members
- Contact information for the Committee Clerk
If you cannot find an appropriate committee, you can always contact Toronto 311 for more information.
To find out about upcoming committee meetings, you can use the City of Toronto’s meeting schedule calendar. The calendar is updated in real time and lists committee meeting dates, times, locations, and meeting agendas. If you already know which committee you will deputing at, you can also find upcoming meeting details on their website.
To make a public deputation, you must reserve a spot on the speaker list with the Committee Clerk (also called a Secretariat). Contact information for a Committee Clerk can be found on a committee’s website. You can sign up as soon as a meeting’s agenda is made public, which is usually up to a week before the scheduled meeting.
To reserve a spot, you will need to provide the Clerk the following information:
- The agenda item you will be speaking on.
- Your (or your organization’s) full name and contact information.
- If you require a translator, or if you will be bringing your own.
Things to keep in mind:
- Deputation sign-ups are first-come, first-served. The courtesy deadline is 4:30pm the night before the scheduled meeting, but you can still sign up in-person on the day of the meeting.
- To keep a written record, it is best to email your request to the Clerk.
- Ask the Clerk to provide your speaker number in their response.
A public deputation is your chance to express your opinions or experiences with the issue. You only have a limited time to present, so you need to use it wisely! When preparing your public deputation, ask yourself: am I making my point in a clear and understandable way?
A typical deputation follows this format:
1. Thank the Chair and the committee.
2. Introduce yourself and why you are speaking. If you are representing a group, explain briefly their focus and concerns.
3. Explain your concerns and how they affect you and the community. While it’s best to be as personal as possible, using examples, statistics, and other research can help your argument.
4. Thank the Chair, the committee, and Council and remind them that you will be observing their voting on this issue.
The time limit for your presentation is five minutes, however, this can be reduced to 2-3 minutes at the discretion of the committee. Following your presentation, committee members may ask you questions. Each member is limited to five minutes, including their question and your answer.
If this is your first time deputing, you may want to attend a meeting beforehand to observe how a meeting is run and to watch other people depute. You can also find some examples of previous public deputation online, such as: Deputations on proposed cuts to student nutrition programs (December 7, 2011).
It’s always best to be well prepared for a deputation. If this is your first deputation, staying organized will help calm your nerves and ensure you don’t miss any important points. Keep these tips in mind for staying organized:
- Write down a few notes, or your whole speech – whatever makes you feel more comfortable!
- Practice your deputation ahead of time. Ask your friends and family for feedback.
- If you are using supporting material, have their sources readily available to cite. After your deputation, a City Councillor may ask you about this.
- Make sure you can adjust your speech time. If you are reading from a written statement, having two versions (five minutes and two minutes) is helpful.
- Check for any meeting changes (time, location, etc.) the night before.
Know your topic!
Your deputation will be much more effective if you are well informed about your issue. You are not expected to be an expert, but you should know enough to answer questions from committee members. Some things to keep in mind:
What research has there been on your issue?
- Providing statistics and support material can strengthen your argument.
- Highlight evidence from other jurisdictions or from already-implemented programs in the city that are comparable.
What is the larger community’s outlook on your issue?
- Linking your views with the broader community can help bolster your argument.
- Scan social media and local newspapers.
- Look up any advocacy groups that address your issue. They may assist you by providing useful resources and advice.
Where do committee members stand on your issue?
- Knowing how committee members stand can help you tailor your argument.
- Look at previous committee meeting minutes, council reports, and voting patterns.
Let your City Councillor know ahead of time that you will be making a deputation.
- Invite them to come to the meeting room to hear you.
- Send a copy of your deputation to your City Councillor.
- Even if your City Councillor does not sit on the committee that you are presenting to, it is still useful to let them know your views and priorities. They may even give you useful tips for your presentation!
The following tips and instructions will help ease your nerves on your big day.
Arriving at the committee meeting room:
- Be as early as possible.
- Familiarize yourself with the room: the committee Chair sits at the front and centre of the committee room, the committee Clerk usually sits to the left of the committee Chair, committee members sit around the table. When it is their turn, Deputants sit facing the committee Chair.
- Get a copy of the deputation list, which shows the order of speakers and the issues they are deputing.
- Confirm the time allotment for speeches. While the standard time for a deputation is five minutes, this may be reduced to 2-3 minutes.
- Be patient: some agenda items can take several hours if they are also hearing deputations.
Making your deputation:
- The committee will call your name up to three times when it is your turn to speak.
- If you would like to provide supporting materials, give them to the Clerk for distribution.
- Check if the microphone is on and adjust it as needed.
- Thank the Chair and committee.
- Introduce yourself and why you are speaking.
- Speak evenly and clearly.
- Smile, make eye contact, and try not to be nervous!
- Be respectful, but don’t be afraid to challenge the committee if you are not being treated with respect or dignity.
- At the end of your deputation, thank the Chair and committee again.
After your deputation:
- Wait to see if committee members have any questions about your deputation.
- If there are no questions, you are free to leave or can stay to hear the rest of the meeting.
- Congratulate yourself on a job well done!
- A few weeks after the meeting, you will be sent a copy of the committee’s decision by mail.
- Follow up with your City Councillor to see if they support your position and the committee’s decision.
- Continue to watch for any new developments about your issue.