Ontario Premier Doug Ford has made a controversial proposal, which would see the mayors of Ottawa and Toronto get the power to override Council members on certain matters. The proposal has not yet been tabled in written form, but has been discussed by Ford in interviews, with local MPP Steve Clark also weighing in.
Many concerned politicians and citizens are asking what the purpose of such legislation would be, particularly because disagreement and voting are key elements of democracy that are effectively removed when one political figure can overrule others. However, the Premier is strongly defending his decision. “I just think it’s the right thing to do, since all the responsibility falls on the Mayor, he needs the ability and the responsibility to make decisions,” Ford told reporters.
The new powers would only be for the Mayors of Toronto and Ottawa, though after a trial run of approximately one year, the powers could be expanded to other large municipalities as well. The details of the policy are not yet clear, with Ford saying that more will be revealed at a later date. What is known thus far is that mayors would be given the power to overrule Council decisions, but Council members could “overrule the overruling” with sufficient votes.
Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke to reporters in favour of the proposed change, saying that such a change has been under discussion for decades, and that a strong mayor system would be beneficial. However, other politicians have voiced strong concerns over the proposal, particularly because it would detract from the powers of other Council members.
Local MPP Steve Clark, who is also the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, was another supporter of the proposal, suggesting that it would help the current housing crisis. “We need to make sure that local councils have every tool that’s available to them to get shovels in the ground,” he told reporters. Despite this, Ford seemed confused when asked about the link to affordable housing, and instead said that the change would be intended to speed up “any decision”.
Mayor Nancy Peckford provided the Times with some thoughts on the matter. “Premier Ford’s strong mayor proposal is specific to big city mayors and is not a model that Canadian municipalities have embraced up to now,” she said. “This said, I am proud of how North Grenville’s Council has worked together to foster a strong spirit of collaboration throughout this term. While we may disagree from time to time, which is healthy, I believe we are best able to serve the community through thoughtful dialogue and deliberation.”
Ford is hoping to have the proposed extra powers available to mayors before the municipal elections scheduled for October.