Ontario planning to bring in 'strong mayor' system for certain cities

·2 min read

TORONTO — Ontario plans to bring in a so-called "strong mayor" system for certain cities as it looks to put more power into the hands of those who lead some of the province's major municipalities.

Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday that his Progressive Conservative government will be looking at the details of such a system but that it will be in place before municipal elections planned for October.

"I just think that the mayor of Toronto or Ottawa, or any mayor, they’re accountable for everything but they have the same single vote as a single councillor," Ford told reporters outside the legislature.

"We'll get into the details later ... it'll be immediate as we move forward in the election in October."

The U.S.-style "strong mayor" system is typically marked by the centralization of executive power with the mayor, who has control over department head appointments, oversees budgets, and sometimes is granted veto power.

The Opposition New Democrats questioned the timing of such a move and said putting in such a system was the "wrong priority."

"Why did Premier Doug Ford keep his strong mayor plan secret throughout the campaign? Why won’t he consult municipalities or the people they represent?" NDP municipal affairs critic Jeff Burch wrote in a statement.

Toronto Mayor John Tory signaled his support for such a system, saying he had previously said he was in favour of a "strong mayor" structure as well.

"I understand this is something that the province is exploring in order to get more homes built as quickly as possible," he wrote in a statement. "As mayor, I am absolutely determined to get more housing built – no matter what powers I have as mayor."

Tory is running for a third term as mayor in Toronto.

A spokesperson for Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the mayor was on annual leave and would not be able to comment Wednesday. Watson has said he's not seeking re-election.

Ford's intention to legislate expanded mayoral powers, first reported by the Toronto Star, comes ahead of Ontario municipal elections set for Oct. 24.

In 2018, Ford slashed the size of Toronto's city council nearly in half during the municipal election campaign.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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