Councillor Nisan wanted Authority - has to settle for Stature as a Deputy Mayor

By Pepper Parr

March 20th, 2023


This is a multi-part series on what members of Council thought about becoming Deputy Mayors with a Portfolio.

Late in February members of city council and some city staff took part in a day long review of the Procedural Bylaw – the document that sets out how Councillors have to manage themselves and work with each other as municipal politicians.

They used an hour and a half of the day to talk about just what being named a Deputy Mayor – something Mayor Meed Ward did earlier in the year.
Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan seemed to have a different understanding of just what the role was about.

Ward 3 Councillor on one of the few days he actually attended a Council meeting in person. His practice has been to attend virtually.

Nisan said:
“I do agree with the mayor and think her response was good. I’m glad we’re talking about it. I think the parts that I would highlight would be the authority that comes with the title because after all, we are talking about a title right?

“We’re not really talking about a different function. per se, but the title so the title is authoritative so when you’re with staff or with the community, people will understand that the title of Deputy Mayor holds some authority to it that would allow your voice to be highlighted in a way that it wouldn’t be if it was a council lead.”

Nisan added that “leads to the second one, which is the intuition around the title. So it’s intuitive that a deputy mayor has authority that a council lead or a councillor may not have to the same degree. So if I’m the Deputy Mayor for the environment, then I go to an Environmental Conference … people understand Oh, okay, so he’s kind of the second in charge for environmental issues. He’s got that leadership role.”

He further added that he didn’t think a lot more explanation would be required and people wouldn’t necessarily understand the authority.
Nisan then said: “And then the last piece which hasn’t been mentioned, although I do agree with the other points is a degree of retention. I think the mayor is in many respects devolving degree of her power to the rest of us by allowing some elevation of our positions, which will make the role more desirable for future candidates, which would in the long term, improve the quality of the councillor around the table.”

Mayor Meed Ward then made it very clear – there is no power, there is no veto.  She said: “I am pretty invested in that title, I think it conveys the kind of stature and authority whilst I think it elevates you … you are acting for the whole city, not just in your councillor role.

“So there’s there’s a certain responsibility that comes with the with the title of Mayor and also deputy mayor that when you are acting in that role you are acting with the city’s interests in mind the community’s interest in mind. And that means putting aside a little bit of your own  personal agenda for lack of another word to think about what has council approved as a whole.

“Each of us still retain an independent voice as an individual member of council but when we act in those roles with those titles, it carries a whole different responsibility.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte preferred stature over authority.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte didn’t see the role of a Deputy Mayor is as one with much in the way of authority.

She said: “I’d like the opportunity to see if we could embed some of the wording that the mayor used because I really liked taking out the word authority and putting in stature and responsibility. I think that sounds more appropriate.”

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman – talking about stature versus authority.

Quite a bit later ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman said: “I want to start off by talking about stature versus authority. This is my fourth term. And the first three terms. I felt like I didn’t know what was going on.

Because something would be going on and staff would be talking to the mayor who either told us or not. And so that was debilitating. Because we’d find out things that we might have known about earlier.

“I see the value here of the stature, that suddenly I have that staff want to talk to me. You know, they always would but it was more kind of we better talk to each of these individual councillors, these people who make up this panel, but we have talked to them on an equal kind of way.

“And so what that allows us then as deputy to have some stature that deserves some sort of engagement in something that is pertinent to the role they’ve been given.

“With respect to authority, I think authority is well defined by the municipal act. So I’m not concerned about that at all. In fact, I think the way this has been spelled out is actually completely correct.”

Related news stories:

Part 1 – What the Mayor was setting out to do.

Part 2:  Figuring out what the job was



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6 comments to Councillor Nisan wanted Authority – has to settle for Stature as a Deputy Mayor

  • Jack Fernhough

    Why doesn’t council get off the “high” and stop worrying about who is Prime Minister of Burlington and who constitutes the Cabinet. Why don’t they figure out what to do about all the grocery carts strewn about the city, the overflowing garbage cans, skyrocketing taxes, increased begging and homelessness, the shocking loss of restaurants in Aldershot. Go do something. For the love of God, do something.

  • Phil Henrich

    Beyond seeking authority, and perhaps expectation of more responsibility, let’s hope our Councillors don’t expect the Deputy Mayor role deserves added renumeration.

  • Grahame

    No idea what they are talking about.I do know that if I need assistance I will call my counsellor Paul.He responds very quickly and got things done in our neighborhood.We have been lucky over the years with others like Mike Wallace and Rick Goldring.

  • Lynn Crosby

    “Nisan said: “I do agree with the mayor and think her response was good.”

    Boy, if we had a dollar for every time Nisan says this, we could have got a reasonable tax increase.

    No, Rory. Nobody picked you as Mayor. The arrogance is astounding. Funny how he chose this meeting to show up to in person.

  • Jim Thomson

    The people of Burlington did not elect Rory to position of authority.
    Only the people in Ward 3 voted for Rory.
    Actually this could all have been avoided if they just changed the Code of Good Governance so that Councillors are free to talk to all the citizens of Burlington.
    This council has spent too much time tinkering with the Procedures Bylaw and not enough time learning how to use it effectively.