Mono comes out against ‘strong mayors’ legislation; supports democracy

November 16, 2023   ·   0 Comments


It may sound less than intended, but the Town of Mono will continue to operate under its “weak mayor system.”

During its regular meeting Nov. 14, town council made known its stand against efforts by Ontario’s government to entrench “strong mayor” powers in some of the province’s urban centres. It’s seen by many as transferring political responsibility for the current housing crisis from Queen’s Park to individual municipalities.

Bill 3, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, and Bill 39, the Better Municipal Governance Act, were adopted in 2022. The former gives special powers to heads of council, and the latter affords mayors the power to pass municipal legislation with only one-third support of council.

Both are seen as affronts to traditional Western democracy. And both are viewed as a means for the Doug Ford government to shirk responsibility for attempts to alleviate the province’s affordable housing crunch crash and burn.

According to the motion broached by Mono Councillor Elaine Capes against strong mayor powers: “Under the guise of empowering mayors, the provincial government is deliberately blurring accountability for the housing agenda to avoid paying the political cost for disrupting established neighbourhoods. To avoid such a backlash, the Ontario government appears to be transferring political responsibility for the housing crisis to big-city mayors. If affordable housing does not materialize in strong-mayor cities, the province can blame the mayors.”

Coun. Melinda Davie said she can’t believe such legislation is something that needs to be discussed in the county and in the world in which we live.

“I also am disappointed at the various mayors around who have shown their true colours when given this strong mayor powers,” she said. “Working by committee is the way. Five brains are better than one, always. Even if you’ve got a slow one on there.”

Davie said it comes down to having as much perspective dedicated toward an issue, a decision, through input from different angles.

“Just for the record, I have no ambitions to be a strong mayor or, as I’ve called them, Super Mayors,” Mayor John Creelman quipped. “I think the intent of it has been distorted in the extreme.

“It’s gone well beyond simply creating an atmosphere for more housing or expediting the creation of more housing.”

He said he believes the legislation is being used in ways that even the provincial government had not anticipated.

“It’s happening and the strong mayors are getting away with it,” Creelman said. “I wish we didn’t have to call it a weak mayor. Maybe an effective mayor might be a better way of describing it.”

Given its size, Mono never qualified for the strong mayor option, he said, and he’s heartened to see the municipal governments across Ontario that came out against the opportunity.

The mayor urged residents to read Cape’s motion as it contained a lot of research “and some good opinion by people who have forgotten more than we will ever know ourselves about municipal governance.”

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