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The first thing Mayor David Miller says he will act on, from his blue-ribbon panel's report on the city's books? Get city council to give him more power.

In a sweeping report released on Thursday, the outside experts called for road tolls, tax hikes, spending cuts, better management of the city's real estate and the possible sell-off or refinancing of key assets, such as Toronto Hydro.

The six-member external fiscal review panel, chaired by Blake Hutcheson, president of real estate giant CB Richard Ellis Canada, also echoed earlier calls for new powers for the mayor, in order to allow him to more forcefully direct the factional 44-member city council, decried in the report as "highly parochial."

A previous external panel on Toronto's government came to a similar conclusion, resulting in the mayor's increased powers to directly appoint much of his cabinet-like executive committee at the beginning of this term.

Mr. Miller - who had previously said Toronto needed only a "stronger" mayor when council granted him those limited new powers - said yesterday it is time he was made simply a "strong" mayor.

"It's now two groups of citizens, very highly respected, that have recommended a strong mayor system," he told reporters.

Within a year, he said, he expects several other recommendations to be out of the gate, including efforts to get more out of the city's $17.9-billion worth of real estate and plans to "monetize" - either sell off, or refinance - key assets. While ruling out a sale of Toronto Hydro, he again mentioned its subsidiary, Toronto Hydro Telecom as a possible option.

But he acknowledged that the report's advice on how the city is governed, including granting him the power to direct, hire and fire the city's top bureaucrat, would likely have to come first.

The city manager is currently technically answerable only to council as a whole, making it harder, Mr. Miller said, for a mayor to directly intervene in the workings of the bureaucracy without approval from city council.

Many have complained that the mayor, directly elected by more voters than any other politician in Canada, has very little real power under Toronto's system, representing just one vote out of 45 on council. Yet voters still expect the mayor to deliver on election promises.

Other changes called for in the report include extra staff and pay for the mayor and councillors on his executive committee.

Getting these new powers will mean convincing councillors to hand them over, Mr. Miller acknowledged: "I hope council will rise to the challenge. This is about the success of Toronto."

Even some of his opponents on council have said they have no problem with more power for the mayor, on the grounds that it may actually make him more accountable.

Councillor Adam Vaughan, an independent who often supports Mr. Miller, said he opposed the idea of a strong mayor system and would vote against it. He said the mayor's aides were already surveying councillors to see if they support Mr. Miller's bid for more power, even before they make plans to bring forward any of the report's other measures.

"Put me in the negative column. I'm in favour of strong citizens and strong neighbourhoods," Mr. Vaughan said.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a frequent critic of Mr. Miller, said he supported a stronger mayor - in principle, at least.

Mr. Miller convened the panel to study the city's books at the height of his battle last fall for council to approve his two controversial new taxes - one on land sales, the other on car registrations.

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