Stronger Mayors proposed for Toronto and Ottawa - if it works - will Burlington be next ?

By Pepper Parr

August 11th, 2022



What the province is proposing:

“The Ontario government introduced legislation that would give the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa more responsibility to deliver on shared provincial-municipal priorities, including building 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years.

“If passed, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, would give the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa the ability to move priority projects forward and get more homes built faster. Proposed changes include:

      • hiring the Chief Administrative Officer and municipal department heads, and create and re-organize departments
      • appointing chairs/vice-chairs for identified committees and local boards, and establish new identified committees
      • bringing matters for council consideration related to provincial priorities
      • vetoing bylaws approved by council if they relate to matters of provincial priority
      • proposing the municipal budget

Steve Clark,Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs has tabled legislation that would mean a much different form of local government.

If we are reading this correctly the Mayor – not Council would hire the CAO (City Manager)  It would the Mayor’s hand picked choice – the Mayor could hire the departments heads – a task that is the responsibility of the city manager.

Those are sweeping changes and in our view not the kind of power and control you want to put in the hands of the wrong kind of Mayor.

A Mayor could propose a budget – were this to happen any self respecting city treasurer would resign.

To us this looks like the thin edge of a wedge that would/could do a lot of damage.

“This legislation is an important tool to get more homes built faster, and is one of a number of initiatives being taken by the Ontario government to address the housing shortage.

“The reality is over one third of Ontario’s growth over the next decade is expected to happen in Toronto and Ottawa, and too many families are already struggling with housing and the rising cost of living.

“We need to support efficient local decision-making to help cut through red tape and speed up development timelines,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “While there is no silver bullet to addressing the housing crisis, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act is another step in the right direction to provide more tools to municipal leaders to deliver on their platform commitments to constituents. The province is actively deepening our cooperation on all fronts across all municipalities to get 1.5 million homes built over the next 10 years.”

“These proposed measures would allow council to have the ability to propose amendments to the municipal budget. Council would also be able to override the mayor’s veto of any budget amendments and by-laws related to provincial priorities with a two-thirds majority vote.

If passed, the proposed changes are intended to take effect on November 15, 2022 — the start of the new municipal council term.

This is a debate that needs close watching.

The proposal is to apply to Ottawa and Toronto.  Are smaller cities next?

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13 comments to Stronger Mayors proposed for Toronto and Ottawa – if it works – will Burlington be next ?

  • Alfred


    This article and the proposed legislation has nothing to do with healthcare. It is meant to solve the housing crisis, which you conveniently skipped right over and ignored. Our recently democratically elected Premier of Ontario has been handed the responsibility of taking care of healthcare as well. Should he in your opinion forget about the housing crisis and forget about families suffering to afford housing and the rising cost of living. One problem at a time.

  • perryb

    Instead of addressing an immediate crisis in health care, Ford is once again meddling in municipal politics, probably with the intention of settling more old scores and certainly gaining more control over city affairs. There is no evidence this would be a good thing, and past track record suggests it would be a disaster.

    PS would it not be time to hear from Nathalie Pierre herself about priorities like health care? Or is she going to be a silent trained seal like her predecessor?

    • Philip Waggett

      The crisis in health care won’t be resolved until the federal government decides to increase the federal health transfer to at least 35%. When government-run healthcare was introduced, the federal government picked up 50% of the cost, now its down to 22%. With greater pressures on the healthcare system, this needs to be addressed. Since Justin Trudeau doesn’t find it a priority, it will soon be time to address this issue with Pierre Poilievre.

      • perryb

        I seriously doubt that Pierre P. would have any intention to give more money to the Provinces without corresponding commitment to spend it on healthcare. After all, the provinces already get major funding and have consistently resisted anyone telling them how to use it, or supervising how they use it (Think national health standards) . Part of the problem in healthcare is that each province insists on rolling their own solutions, and proudly refuses to look around to see if any other jurisdictions already have shown how to do better (as many do, especially internationally). And have unfailingly refuse to work together and adopt any concept of working together to a common game plan.

        Closer to home, Ford has appointed as the latest Health minister someone who has no apparent qualifications whatsoever to be in charge of this portfolio, just like the previous one. Except to get in line with the outrageous policy that skilled people must forced to be paid less than they are worth (except of course for provincial politicians, who live pretty high on the hog). And make insulting announcements that all is well for nearly 90% of Ontarians (although 3 million or so may feel some inconvenience if they get sick).

        • David Barker

          Right on point, perryb. In Healthcare and so many other areas of our lives each province sets its own standards. Whether you need medical attention in Ontario or BC or Newfoundland the available services should be the same and should be covered by your Provincial Healthcare plan

        • Philip Waggett

          A somewhat rambling deflection on the need for significant increases in the federal health transfer, but a few observations on the points you have raised.
          Despite the attempts of many, particularly in the MSM, to characterize Pierre P. as a right-wing extremist, the reality is that Pierre is far more pragmatic than people give him credit for; Canadians are very focused on the failings of our health care system and I think Pierre will tap into that concern to distinguish himself from Trudeau and the Liberals who are very vulnerable on the issue. However, as a believer in smaller and less bureaucratic government (so far, big and bureaucratic ministeries have brought us to this point and are clearly not working), I believe he will allow provinces to develop their own policies to meet their local needs.

          And I hope they do look at international models; most European countries that have far more effective healthcare systems than Canada, feature a blend of private and public healthcare. Certainly, the Minister of Health in Ontario was correct in specifying that “all options” are on the table, providing the most necessary services are paid using a public option.

          You may be right about the lack of appropriate qualifications, although management oversight and planning are necessary prerequisites. I do note that you have not previously to my recollection raised this concern before. For instance, how many of Trudeau’s cabinet members have the necessary qualifications for their portfolios? We currently have a Minister of Slavonic Studies running the Finance portfolio. And on a lower level, Hamilton Health Sciences is functioning with a lawyer and career politician in charge.

          And certainly there are many skilled people in the health field who deserve to be paid more, but once again, in finding money to do this, federal funding is critical.

          And finally while you are willing to slight provincial politicians “who live pretty high on the hog”, you seemingly are no so concerned with their federal counterparts who earn much more. The high-flying and spending PM is a great example of this.

  • Joe Gaetan

    “The mayors of Toronto and Ottawa will be granted sweeping new powers which will give them sole responsibility for preparing the municipal budget for council approval as well the ability to hire and fire department heads as they see fit and veto some decisions made by councillors.”

    Here are a few questions worth asking about the ‘Strong Mayor” legislation, irrespective of who currently holds the position:

    Would we want our mayor to have the power to override council approval of a bylaw when they are of the opinion that using the veto “would further a provincial priority? (Under the changes, the mayor would have to override the bylaw as a whole and would not have the ability to choose which specific aspects or amendments to block. That veto could then only be overruled by a two-thirds vote at city council, which would have to take place within 21 days of it being used.)

    Would we want our mayor to have the responsibility for preparing the budget rather than having it done by council as a whole? (Under the changes, City council would still have to approve the budget and could pass amendments, though the mayor would have the option of using a separate veto power to override those amendments.)

    Would we want our mayor to have the sole authority to appoint a Chief Administrative Officer, hire and fire department heads and create or reorganize departments? (The ministry says that those powers would, however, not apply to statutory appointments, such as the Chief of Police or the Medical Officer of Health.)

    Those are just a few questions to be asked.

    The one thing the legislation might do, is shine a bright light on incumbent Mayors and aspirants to the job.

  • Sharon

    This power is definitely not want we want MMW to have. Can you imagine!!

    • Sharon It is definitely not what we want any Burlington mayor to have. Toronto and Ottawa have always had a different set of rules. Anne’s campaign is focussed on providing leadership to a council that is willing to live within the present legislated framework that sees all members of council equal in terms of decision making power and never to be able to bypass Council and Committee as our audits show is the case during this term. There has also been an inappropriate shift through the Procedure by-law to increase individual powers of the Mayor and Chairs that reduces the power of the bill payers. Lets hope election apathy gives the October election a miss and we make sure we are casting fully informed votes.

      • Bob

        Let’s hope one day Anne Marsden, candidate for Mayor starts speaking for herself

      • Mary Hill


        No ! Not one issue at a time !

        All these issues need urgent attention. The point of having ministries and minister’s is so that they can focus on their portfolios so the government can deal with multiple issues simultaneously.

        Perry B, Philip Waggett, Joe Gaetan, Sharon, Marsdens, Bob

        The power to be afforded to the two mayors is not absolute. The Gazette did weakly and superficially touch upon a provision in the legislation that provides each City’s council a power to veto the Mayor. In order to veto the mayor the council must vote with a 60% majority against the mayor.

        So if the bill as presented was to be extended to include Burlington a vote of 4 of the 7 councilors (includes the mayor) against the Mayor would provide a veto.

        Please note I personally am against these powers be given to any Mayor. I do not understand why Ford thinks one individual knows better how to deal with a matter than does the council as a whole, which can pass bylaws etc with a simple majority.

        Mayoral Candidate Marsden

        You continually seem to find the time to pass comment on various stories here in the Gazette and on other readers’ comments, but you consistently fail to find the time or inclination to answer important questions put to you that would provide insight into how you might act as a Mayor.


        McKenna 2.0

        • Mary Majority of voting councillors with a full house as it stands right now at Burlington is 4 of 7. 60% of 7 is 4.2 which means 5 of 7 councillors voting together in favour of what is perceived to be the Mayor’s proposal with the information we presently have. This may never happen for other than Toronto and Ottawa! While John Tory is in favour of it the Ottawa Mayor is adamant he did not ask for it and does not want it. The Ottawa Mayor, however, is not standing for re-election. Our comment is written by Anne and Dave Marsden members of the public if it is written by Anne Marsden Mayoral Candidate it will say so. Anne’s mayoral candidate address is published and you are welcome to address any issues you have with her campaign, through that published address.

          • Mary Hill

            Now the Anne Marsden is a candidate I don’t think you can separate what she puts her name to as a member of the public or a mayoral candidate. Just like your criticism of the mayor attending that residents party. I don’t think you would accept her attendance as being as just a local resident, or member of the public. You would say no matter what she is the Mayor and so is always seen as such.

            Your response is McKennaesque. You’re hiding and not answering legitimate questions put to you. Stop hiding. Just answer the questions. Where is the harm in that? Don’t you want people to know where as mayor you would stand on issues upon which you have commented via the Gazette.