Civic Issues: Making Mayors Mightier

After Ottawa and Toronto, the Doug Ford government has decided to vest in Mayors of 26 more cities powers to overrule the select majority decisions of their councils.

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Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, announced on Friday that Mayors of 26 cities will be able to exercise  their expanded powers in  their large and fast-growing municipalities from July 1 onwards.

Covered under the new announcement are cities of Ajax, Barrie, Brantford, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Clarington, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Markham, Milton, Niagara Falls, Oakville, Oshawa, Pickering, Richmond Hill, St. Catharine, Vaughan, Waterloo, Whitby, and Windsor. Their Mayors  will all have the same powers bestowed on them that were provided to Toronto and Ottawa last September, according to Clark.

“Increasing the supply of housing is job number one,” said Clark who pointed out that the municipalities selected represent about 1.2 million of the 1.5 million homes the province has promised to build by 2031.

“It’s all about ensuring that those mayors have the tools to ensure that they meet their obligations of the housing pledge that they made but at the same time ensure that everyone is set up for success.”

The new powers delegated to  mayors include allowing them to propose housing-related bylaws and pass them with the support of one-third of councilors, as well as override council approval of bylaws, such as a zoning bylaw, that would stymie the creation of more homes.

Those opposed to giving powers to Mayors feel that elected Councillors would lose their right to pass or adopt new bylaws governing building of new houses as well as powers of making zoning bylaws.

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However, there are Mayors who are supporting the new promulgation. For example, Mayor of London, Josh Morgan, said “This is a suite of tools that is at the disposal of mayors and I think each mayor is going to use them differently.” “In some cases, there will be mayors who won’t use the powers ever,” he added.

When asked, Clark could not say if all 28 mayors actually want to use the strong mayor powers. Ottawa’s mayor has said he doesn’t want them and council voted in late November to oppose the bill. Former Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed support for the powers but several mayoral candidates have vowed not to use them.

Now Toronto is in the process of electing its new Mayor on June 26.

The new announcement also left out certain cities as their Mayors would not enjoy the new “veto” power.

Newmarket along with Chatham-Kent, Greater Sudbury and Thunder Bay are among those who would continue with the existing system. Clark explained that the powers were extended to only those communities that had enacted a housing pledge and those who did not were being kept out of the purview of the new amendment.

Prabhjot Singh

NEWS

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