Statement from Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward on Democracy & Governance at City Hall

By Staff

March 26th, 2024



I welcome any conversation about democracy, governance and how council can continue to work together in a collaborative and consultative way.

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

I welcome Council to make any requests of me they feel are important, and support Council in making this request. That is why I voted in favour of the motion that was approved unanimously by Council today. I will take the time to give it the thoughtful consideration it deserves. Council has requested I respond by the April 16 Council meeting, which I will do.

It is truly unfortunate there has been misinformation, speculation, rumour and fear mongering out in the community. I will do my best to focus on the facts — what has changed and what hasn’t.

Council was briefed on the new powers, including the ability to delegate some of them. We have been governing together in this new context for eight months now.

Council still advances the business of the city by motion and majority vote. That hasn’t changed. You will see that at every committee and council meeting. Our democratic process remains strong — in fact, this year to date, Council has unanimously approved 61 motions at our meetings including this one today.

Transparency and accountability haven’t changed. All Mayoral Decisions are posted on the city’s website – that is required by legislation. Please read them to see what has been done, not what rumour, speculation or implication would suggest. There have been 17 in total, to date — the majority of which were required to approve decisions made at Council. This will continue to be required, so you will continue to see these. Here is the full list:

      • To appoint a City Manager (Council was included in the process);
      • To approve bylaws at the 12, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions);
      • Confidential 9;
      • To approve bylaws at the 16, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions);
      • To approve bylaws at the 12, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions);
      • To shorten the 10-day period for Mayoral Veto of amendments to the budget (there was no veto exercised; budget approved by council);
      • To approve bylaws at the 28, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions);
      • To approve bylaws at the 14, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions);
      • To approve bylaws at the 2, 2023 Council (action’s council’s decisions);
      • To establish standing committee chairs;
      • To establish committee structure options (voted on by council);
      • To approve bylaws at the Oct 17, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions);
      • To approve bylaws at the 5, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions);
      • To approve bylaws at the 26, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions);
      • Direction to draft the 2024 Budget (required under provincial legislation);
      • To approve bylaws at the 14, 2023 Council (actions council’s decisions); and
      • To approve bylaws at the July 11, 2023 Council (action’s council’s decisions).

City Hall’s structure hasn’t changed. The City Manager is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the city, by bylaw. Staff report to the City Manager, and the City Manager reports through committee and council.

The Mayor has always had unique roles and responsibilities under the Municipal Act, even before the new legislation. The Mayor is the “Head of Council” and “CEO” of the corporation, and the only one elected across the city. That hasn’t changed.

The recent legislation assigns additional responsibilities and duties exclusively to the Mayor. This represents a change from what we are used to.

Some of these can be delegated. It has struck me as being politically performative to delegate, as these can also be undelegated at any time. It seems to me to be more transparent and accountable to openly acknowledge the powers and duties are there and determine how we will continue to govern in a collaborative, democratic way in this new context. I believe Council has been doing that over the past 8 months in this new context, and I have no concerns we will continue to do that.

Most of these new duties cannot be delegated. They are not optional, nor was there an ability to “opt out.” Municipalities who accepted a housing pledge – that Burlington Council unanimously did in March 2023 – got them in July 2023. We accepted the pledge for all the right reasons; we did not know the Province’s strong mayor powers would be tied to the pledge. You can read my statement on the legislation when it was first introduced here: Statement from Burlington Mayor Meed Ward on Province Expanding Strong Mayor Powers to Additional Municipalities.

Each Mayor has responded based on their determination of what’s best for their community, some have delegated all, some none, and some partial, but in doing so provided additional guidelines. I will take the time to be equally thoughtful.

Though some duties can be offloaded by delegation, accountability cannot be offloaded.

I am accountable to the city and the people of Burlington to fulfill the roles assigned to me. We all are accountable – not just every four years at the ballot box, but every single day we hold these roles. Our community will be the judge of how we work together to fulfill our responsibilities in this new context.

My track record of collaboration is clear, and my focus remains on serving in the best interests of our community – building a strong city together with a high quality of life for our residents for the next seven generations.

Related news story:

Mayor stiffs her Council again.


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3 comments to Statement from Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward on Democracy & Governance at City Hall

  • Caren

    Council would not have brought this Motion to request our Mayor to relinquish some, and Not all of her Strong Mayor Powers, if it was not necessary to do so in order to return democracy and civility back to our City Council as a whole.

    The Mayor can spin it however she wants to. But I like numerous other residents in Burlington support this action by our Council members. Council has not had their elected right to give a voice to their constituents with the Strong Mayor Powers in place. And the goings on with City Staff who are suppose to be the City Managers job

    This will not bode well for our Mayor. If she doesn’t relinquish the powers requested by our Council members, it will only exemplify our Mayor’s need and want for power.

  • Lynn Crosby

    The only misinformation is coming from the Mayor.

    “ how council can continue to work together in a collaborative and consultative way.”. Sorry but, HUH? We literally have the majority of council proving this to be completely untrue.

    Its truly mind boggling that the mayor is choosing to continue to dig in her heels and instead of doing what is clearly wanted by her council, the staff, all delegates and the public, and what anyone who truly values democracy would know is right anyway, she blames others and puts out more nonsense and frankly, with her actions all the way along on this, just keeps proving the point of what the Motion is saying.

    It’s gobsmacking to see a supposed leader responding like this. Talk about power corrupting.

    Kudos especially to Nisan, Stolte, and Kearns today. You and Galbraith and Angelo are on the right side here. The mayor has no idea – because she refuses to see it – how far spread is the anger in the community on what many are calling abuse of power and total dysfunction at the top. She can skirt this and delay this and spin this and it appears she will. But it sure will destroy whatever legacy she hoped to achieve and all of us residents are losing.

  • Penny

    If nothing has changed why is our mayor fighting to keep this designation?

    What does ” Actions Council’s Decisions” really mean?

    Sitting in the council chamber listening to this meeting it was obvious that Councillor Sharman and Bentevegna are in total agreement with maintaining the Strong Power designation.

    The question is WHY?

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