Toronto City Council isn’t against a strong mayor system, but wants more power in some areas

Toronto City Council will not ask the Ontario government to drop its plan to impose a strong mayoral system on Toronto, councilors decided Thursday.

Instead, they decided to ask the province to consult with the city on how it governs itself and grant it more powers in line with city governments that operate under strong mayoral systems.

The motion, moved by Con. Jennifer McKelvie, went 23-2. Mayor John Tory did not speak to the motion. Josh Matlow and Denzil Minnan-Wong voted against.

The Council said it wanted to be consulted on areas where it previously wanted greater autonomy and decision-making power. These areas include road safety measures, planning and housing issues, cannabis and alcohol license application approvals, revenue collection and budget measures, including revenue tools that are used in each municipal system that has a strong mayor model.

“The mayor is elected by all the inhabitants of the city,” the councilor said. Gary Crawford, the city’s budget chief, said Thursday.

Crawford, who voted in favor of the motion, said the extra powers would allow Toronto mayors to make ‘tough decisions’ on things like the budget, which he called a ‘gruesome and overwhelming process. “. which involves constant compromises. He said consensus needs to be built, but more information about the strong mayor system is needed.

“I support a strong mayor, but we have to see what it is. I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t know what the prime minister has in mind,” he said.

Crawford said the city is heading into a “new post-COVID financial reality” and he’s worried about the numbers.

“We are entering a very difficult number of years,” he said.

Earlier this week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford floated the idea of ​​a strong mayoral system, saying his Progressive Conservative government would like to have such a system in place before municipal elections are held in october.

“I just think it’s the right thing to do since all the responsibility lies with the mayor. They are responsible for everything. But they have the same single vote as a single councilor. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a good decision or a tough decision they make, they have to be accountable,” Ford said.

Ford said such a system would give mayors the ability to make “appropriate changes.” Two-thirds of a council could overrule a mayor under such a system, he said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Doug Ford speak at a press conference after a closed meeting at Queen’s Park in Toronto late last month. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Matlow, who had moved a motion that would have asked the province not to go through with his plans, said the idea of ​​a strong mayoral system is not about autonomy that would give the city more power to provide services to residents of Toronto, or over the use of land. planning that would allow the city to build more housing.

“It’s a good story. It’s a good twist. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about consolidating the power of the council in the hands of one person,” did he declare.

Com. Mike Layton said the debate over the strong mayoral system is not a referendum on Tory himself or his leadership, or an argument over left or right, but a debate over the importance of every vote cast in the municipal elections.

“In my mind, it’s about democracy,” he said. “This is to ensure representation that all the votes that have been cast for all the individual councilors in this room mean something.”

The counselor calls for open-mindedness

Com. Brad Bradford, who represents Ward 19, Beaches-East York, said such a system would allow a mayor to get things done more quickly. He said it’s important to have an open mind about the idea.

“Well, I think that’s an idea worth considering. I think there are instances at City Hall where that might help us get things done faster,” Bradford told CBC. Subway morning Thursday.

“The mayor is running and campaigning on a city-wide agenda. Sometimes that can be difficult to execute with the system we have now,” he said.

“Whether we’re talking about housing, transportation, or affordability, he has a mandate to push that forward, and we’re here to stand up for our communities, to build consensus to work together. But there’s probably a few cases that you can point out where we could probably do more if we had a strong mayor system.”

For example, if a strong mayor system was in place, Bradford said the mayor could have made a decision about legalizing rooming houses in Toronto.

Additionally, Bradford said the mayor could help ensure the city builds affordable housing, even in the face of opposition from landlords who don’t want it in their neighborhoods.

Stop intervening, ex-mayor tells province

Former Toronto mayor David Miller spoke out against such a system on Twitter on Wednesday, telling the province to let the city govern itself.

“The province must stop interfering with Toronto and return to the principles that underpin the City of Toronto Act,” Miller tweeted.

“The City of Toronto is the fourth or fifth largest government in Canada by budget and population, and is more than capable of self-government.”

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