By Lincoln DePradine
An Ontario government plan to extend further “strong mayor” powers to the leaders of Toronto and Ottawa is receiving mixed reaction.
The plan, included in a bill introduced in the provincial legislature, is part of what Premier Doug Ford’s government says is a push to build 1.5 million homes in 10 years.
“We know government bureaucracy and red tape can sometimes stand in the way of much-needed housing and we’re taking steps to fix this problem,” municipal affairs and housing minister, Steve Clark, told reporters.
Earlier this year, the government gave so-called strong mayor powers to Toronto and Ottawa, allowing their leaders to override council approval of bylaws, such as a zoning bylaw, that would stymie the creation of more homes. The powers also gave them responsibility for preparing and tabling their city’s budget, instead of council, as well as hiring and firing department heads.
Mark Sutcliffe, Ottawa’s mayor, says he is not in favour of the strong mayor powers. However, Toronto mayor John Tory supports the new powers.
Municipalities have expressed concerns that implementation of the plan would leave them without enough funding to construct supporting infrastructure.
Jessica Bell, opposition New Democratic Party housing critic, said nothing in the bill will address affordability.
“This bill is about bulldozing local decision-making so Premier Ford can wield more power,” she said. “It is an affront to democracy.”