Seeking Volunteers • Investigating the Bureau

UPDATE:  Our Research Day on Aug 3rd was an amazing success. Thanks to all who attended!!  We’re hosting a SECOND day, on Tuesday August 30th.  10am.  Hope you can make it!


I’d like to invite you to a research party next week at the Toronto Archives.   I would happily do the research myself, but there are TEN BOXES of materials to go through and document.  I can’t do this alone, so I need your help.

What are we documenting, you ask?

Well, I’ve always thought that Toronto would benefit from some sort of independent fact-finding organisation that reported to the public on civic affairs.  Then, a couple of years ago, I stumbled upon this:

I investigated, and discovered that The Bureau of Municipal Research was founded in 1913, incorporated in 1914, and for about sixty years they produced dozens of amazing non-partisan reports with titles such as:

Should the Metro Toronto Chairman be Directly Elected?

The Public Interest and the Right to Know

Be it Ever so Humble: The Need for Rental Housing in the City of Toronto

Low Voter Turnout in Municipal Elections

The Politics of Waste Management (’75)

Design for Development; Where are you?

Parties to Change: The need for, and viability of, political parties operating at the municipal level. (’70)

Teaching Local Government: A responsibility of the Educational System (May 1978)  Note: I believe this report was written by current Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby!

Landlord-Tenant Relationships: Time for another look

Cost Saving Innovations in Canadian Local Government (’79)

The Role of the Municipal Auditor

Should the Island be an Airport? (’77)

Citizen Participation in Metro Toronto: Climate for Cooperation?

In an era of hyper-polarisation and ideologically-driven policy proposals, the idea of a rational citizens’ voice on local issues is quite appealing.

Here’s a few things  I’ve learned so far:

1) As far as I can tell, the group no longer exists.  I’m not sure if they formally shut down, or if it simply faded away.  BMR would have celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2013.  (I’m thinking of applying for funding to create a 100 year anniversary retrospective exhibit!)

2)) The Bureau inspired a national organisation called the Citizens Research Institute of Canada. Not sure if they’re still around either.

3) Susan Fish was the BMR Executive Director at some point (early 70’s?).  Fish later was elected to City Council as a reform candidate in 76, and then served at Queens Park in Bill Davis’ red tory cabinet.  She also ran for mayor of Toronto in 1991 against Jack Layton, June Rowlands and Betty Disero.

4) Anne Golden was the BMR Research Coordinator at one point.  Golden went on to become the President of the United Way, and authored two important reports: “The Golden Report,” and “Taking Responsibility for Homelessness: An Action Plan for Toronto.”  (Read this recent article by Carol Goar)

5) Over their sixty years of activity, they had some cool logos:

6) There are ten boxes full of BMR reports and documents at the Toronto Archives.  I think it would be fun, and useful, to see what’s in those boxes.

So, join me next week!

BMR Day #1
Tuesday August 23

BMR Day #2
Tuesday August 30
At The Toronto Archives • map
(meet in the lobby at 10am)
Bring a digital camera, if you have one.


24 responses to “Seeking Volunteers • Investigating the Bureau

  1. If I did not have to work! Looking forward to hearing what you all find.

  2. Hi: I’m not volunteering right now but I was part of a group in Hamilton during parts of 2003-2004 called CATCH – which meant ‘Citizens at City Hall’. We attended Council Committee meetings and created our own minutes of what happened which were posted on a website. Don McLean – the driving force behind this started it after the Save the Redhill Valley (from the highway that is there now) failed. Don and others then wrote articles on the website to report on the goings-on at City Council. CATCH continued for quite a while after Linda and I moved to Toronto in June 2004 to be near our eldest son and family and also to reduce our carbon footprints by downsizing, not owning a car and using the TTC, walking and cycling to get around locally. We do share our son’s car expenses and use it to get out of Toronto. CATCH wasn’t a research org. but if it exists it is now part of Environment Hamilton which you can google.

    • Thanks Murray! I’ve heard of CATCH before – they are one of many Citizen-run groups in Southern Ontario, such as The Guelph Civics League, London Urban League, etc. I think we can learn from these groups, and create something new in TO!

  3. i think i’ll be there!… :-)

  4. I wish I could be there to help. Good luck.

  5. This is a fantastic idea. Thank you! I can’t make it as I will be out of town but if you don’t manage to get through all of it I would love to help out. I’ve used a few of their reports such as the one on the island airport for undergrad papers, great stuff!

  6. Some stuff I found that might be of interest:

    – The Citizens’ Research Institute of Canada hasn’t published anything since 1961, so I doubt that they’re still in existence. The name seems to have been taken up by a BC anti-LGBT group.

    – I found one report from 1975 “Metro Toronto under review : what are the issues?” coauthored by Bureau of Municipal Research and Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto. The latter organization now exists as Social Planning Toronto (

    – Last publication by BMR: 1983. Whatever issues we’re facing, chances are they already have a report on it – I found citations of privatization of garbage, road tolls to subsidize public transit, and funding of libraries, just to name a few.

  7. Hi Dave,
    I’ll be there, (Sylvia) do we need to have Toronto Archives membership card with us? May need to allow extra time for this. Don’t know where mine is but have one. Like this idea greatly –
    See you then.

  8. Hi, Dave
    I’d like to volunteer. Do I need a membership? Is there a fee? (None is mentioned on their website – but this IS Rob Ford’s Toronto…)
    Hope to see you then / there

    • No membership fee, Debra. You’ll have to sign up for a research card there if you don’t have one already. Looking forward to it.

  9. Wants to click on those titles–all sound interesting. Logo of a genie in a lantern? who’s going to let it out? shedding light? wonder if any of the people were Unitarians–flame logo is similar.

  10. Also calls to mind a much later group: Bureau of Public Secrets

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  12. Hey Mez, I’d like to come down but I’m at work at that time. If you don’t get through it all, maybe we could go back on the weekend?? I could bring my camera down then.

  13. Mez,

    I only just caught this on the 23rd. I can’t make it on such short notice, but this project is of immense interest to me.

    Is there some way yet devised to keep interested people in the loop?

  14. Sorry I couldn’t make it. I hope you’ll keep all of us posted about future opportunities to collaborate in civic research!

  15. Hi Dave,
    I will do my utmost to attend this very great opportunity, so I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Thanks for extending the offer! I love the Archive, it’s one of my favourite places in Toronto. Mythical and mysterious, all these preserved lives.

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  18. hi dave
    just came here from research concerning public health officer Dr Charles J. Hastings who must have been instrumental in the creation of this body. I am wondering if you are familar with this person, had a practice on sumach street 1890’s, death registrar and medical officer of health city of toronto.
    any link or reference would be helpful thanks

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