Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday June 22, 2023
Ford’s Tentacled Reach
The Ontario government is moving forward with its plan to expand the powers of mayors in more municipalities, allowing them to exert greater control over local affairs. However, critics remain skeptical of Premier Doug Ford’s intentions, comparing his influence to that of a Cthulhu-like monster with multiple arms controlling puppet mayors. These enhanced powers, already implemented in Toronto and Ottawa, grant mayors the authority to pass bylaws related to the province’s housing initiatives, even with just a third of their local councils in support.
Additionally, these stronger powers give mayors the ability to veto budget amendments unless they receive a two-thirds majority vote from the council. Mayors also gain the authority to hire senior bureaucrats and establish new departments within their municipalities. While many cities in the United States, such as Chicago and New York, grant their mayors substantial influence, critics argue that the provision allowing the passing of bylaws with only a third of the votes undermines the principles of democracy, labeling it as “minority rule.”
The provincial government has defined specific regulations designating these priorities as contributing to their ambitious target of constructing 1.5 million homes and providing housing-related infrastructure, including roads and sewer pipes, by 2031. Ontario’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, made the announcement alongside mayors from Guelph, Burlington, and London, who will soon possess these expanded powers. The decision was reached after a meeting at Queen’s Park between Clark, other cabinet ministers, and the mayors of the province’s largest cities.
Effective July 1, the new powers will be implemented through regulations and will be granted to municipalities with a population exceeding 100,000 or projected to reach that threshold by 2031. Additionally, these municipalities must have signed a “housing pledge” to support Ontario’s target for new homes. The list of municipalities receiving these powers includes Barrie, Niagara Falls, Windsor, Hamilton, Mississauga, and Markham. Notably, Newmarket, located north of Toronto, is excluded from the list due to the local government’s failure to sign the housing pledge.
Mayor John Taylor of Newmarket cited the town’s insufficient sewer capacity as the reason for not signing the pledge. He attributes this problem to the province’s decision to block the construction of a planned regional sewage plant and instead build pipes to an existing facility in Durham Region, a process that may take up to eight years. Mayor Taylor also stated that, regardless of the powers granted, he would not utilize them.
Patrick Brown, the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party who now serves as the mayor of Brampton, disagrees with the notion that these powers are antidemocratic, claiming that people already assume mayors possess such authority. Brown believes that Premier Doug Ford, who spent time at Toronto City Hall, understands the inconsistency between public perception and the actual powers held by mayors.
It is worth noting that Premier Ford’s late brother, Rob Ford, served as the mayor of Toronto, but his powers were significantly reduced by the city council in 2013 following his erratic behavior and struggles with substance abuse. In Ottawa, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has pledged not to use the “minority rule” power to pass bylaws. Interestingly, it was former Toronto mayor John Tory who initially requested this additional measure from Premier Ford, even after the province had already announced plans to strengthen mayoral control over budgets and bureaucracy.
As the by-election is currently underway due to Mr. Tory’s resignation and admission of an affair with a subordinate, frontrunner Olivia Chow and other candidates, including Josh Matlow, Ana Bailão, and Mitzie Hunter, have already expressed their disinterest in utilizing the “minority rule” bylaw power if elected. (AI)
From sketch to finish, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro. If you’re creative, give illustration a try: