'Strong mayors': next council should address topic, say ex-mayors

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“” Strong mayors””””: next council will have to address topic, say ex-mayors

A forum brought together several former mayors of Toronto this week, to discuss the subject of the new powers granted by the province to the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa.

A group of former mayors of Toronto believe that the next city council should, after the election, resolve the question of the “strong mayor” system imposed by the province and specify the parameters of this new designation.

The provincial government of Doug Ford this summer introduced and quickly passed legislation that defines these new tools for the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa, but city council can still have influence over how and when these powers are used. , believe Art Eggleton, John Sewell, David Crombie, Barbara Hall and David Miller.

That's what these former mayors argued at a forum hosted this week by the University of Toronto's School of Cities, in partnership with CBC. The event was intended to shed light on the new powers granted to the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa.

These ex-politicians had come out this summer to ask the province to abandon its strong mayors project.

The new powers allow the mayors of the two largest cities in the province to lead the budget process (they will be responsible for proposing the municipal budget and can veto changes proposed by the council), and give them more control over appointments to committees and the ability to hire and fire staff in key city positions.

Mayors will also have the power to overrule certain council decisions that do not correspond not the priorities of the Ontario government. The province says it introduced this bill to help build more homes, faster.

I think these powers are a bad thing, and are likely to have very negative results for local democracy, said David Miller, who was mayor of Toronto from 2003 to 2010, at the forum this week.

Even though the law has been passed, former mayors believe the story does not end there. Agreeing on the rules of engagement surrounding how the powers will be used is well within the rights of the next mayor and council, says David Crombie, who served as Toronto's mayor from 1972 to 1978. /p>

Most of the powers set out in the law are permissive, he argues. It says the mayor "may", not "must," he notes.

David Crombie believes there is a real opportunity to have a discussion about it to city council and with the citizens of Toronto after the October 24 election.

Mr Crombie and his fellow former mayors believe there has not been enough consultation and debate on the new law, especially given that it is a fundamental change in the way government works local.

Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie.

Although the new powers can be used immediately by the newly elected mayor, the two main candidates in the Toronto mayoral race say they are ready to have a debate in council.

I would be very happy to have a discussion with my colleagues, if we are elected, says John Tory.

But at the end of the day, it's a provincial law that applies to Ottawa and Toronto. And I expect to continue to do my job as mayor, if given that privilege, in the same way as before. That is, finding consensus with the board as much as possible, to move forward together on the big things we need to do.

Gil Penalosa, the main adversary of John Tory, assures that a debate on this subject would be the first item on the agenda if he were elected mayor and adds that he opposes, in a general way, these new powers.

The mayor already does not lack power, he argues. Rather, there is a lack of vision and action.

At the forum, former mayors were also asked what citizens could do to express their concern about to the new powers, especially young people. John Sewell, who was mayor of Toronto from 1978 to 1980, urged them to take action and pressure the new mayor and council to resist the strong mayor system.

With information from Shawn Jeffords, CBC

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