Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday July 22, 2022
Ontario planning to bring in ‘strong mayor’ system for Toronto and Ottawa
Toronto Mayor John Tory welcomed the prospect of gaining more authority as the province considers introducing a strong-mayor system, while critics warned that the city has recent evidence of the risk of empowering its top politician.
Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday the policy shift was being planned for Toronto and Ottawa and it could eventually be expanded to other large cities.
Although specifics about the new powers were still being sorted out, Mr. Ford said the mayors would have veto authority on certain issues that come before council. This could then be overruled by a two-thirds majority of council members.
Under the current system, Toronto’s mayor has only one vote on council but has considerable power to manage issues and lean on councillors for support. Mr. Tory has been able to enact his agenda through two terms without losing any substantive council votes.
Mr. Ford said he wasn’t approached by any mayor seeking these powers, but he feels it’s the right thing to do as long as mayors don’t abuse it. “If they aren’t respectful, they won’t be in office in four years,” he said.
The province is expected to table the legislation during a summer session of the legislature starting Aug. 8.
Asked about the prospect of getting more power, Mr. Tory said that he had previously supported a strong-mayor system. The powers of the mayor have been discussed for years, he noted: “I’ve said that I was favourably disposed.”
The possibility of Ontario moving some cities toward a strong-mayor system was first reported by the Toronto Star.
Mr. Ford, who served previously as Toronto city councillor and whose brother Rob completed a scandal-plagued term as mayor, has long bemoaned what he saw as the slow pace of political progress at city hall. More than a decade ago he was calling for a strong-mayor system, pointing to the example of Chicago, where Mr. Ford said former mayor Richard Daley “got things done.”
“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 councillor and no matter if it’s a good decision or a tough decision that they make, they have to be accountable,” Mr. Ford told reporters outside the Ontario Legislature Wednesday morning. (The Globe and Mail)