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Most of Ontario's big cities getting 'strong mayor' powers

The Ford government excluded Newmarket Mayor John Taylor, who didn't sign the province's housing pledge, from the list of Ontario's newly strengthened mayors
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark speaking to reporters in Toronto on Sept. 10, 2018.

The Ford government is giving the mayors of most of Ontario’s big cities the same “strong mayor” powers it first created for Toronto and Ottawa.

The move will give most of the 29 members of Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) greater authority over their municipalities on July 1. 

As of Canada Day, the strong mayors will have the power to set budgets, veto bylaws, and pass bylaws with just one-third of their council’s support — with the caveat that these bylaws deal with provincial priorities like getting more housing built. They'll also take charge of appointed senior civil servants in their municipalities.

The Ford government first gave Toronto’s and Ottawa’s mayors some of these powers last year with one of the first pieces of legislation that it introduced in its second mandate: Bill 3, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark and Premier Doug Ford have said they’ve given more authority to mayors to better enable them to hit their housing targets. One of the Progressive Conservative government’s top priorities is to facilitate 1.5 million homes being built in Ontario by the end of 2031, which its housing affordability task force said is needed to address the province’s supply shortage.

Each of the 26 new “strong mayors” announced by Clark on Friday submitted a “housing pledge” to the province, affirming their co-operation with the province’s housing targets and plans.

Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Chatham—Kent, the remaining OBCM municipalities without the powers, will have the opportunity to submit a housing pledge to the province to receive the powers, Clark said on Friday.

“Pledges may include, but are not limited to, priorities for site-specific planning decisions to expedite housing in priority areas, plans to streamline the development approval process, commitments to plan, fund and build critical infrastructure to support housing, and strategies to use municipal surplus lands,” according to the province’s regulatory posting

One of the municipalities that will be left without “strong mayor” powers come July is Newmarket. Mayor John Taylor didn’t agree to the Ford government’s housing pledge, said Clark.

Taylor argued the city doesn’t have enough sewage capacity to meet the province’s 12,000 homes goal. 

The 26 municipalities the Ford government is expanding “strong mayor” powers to are: Ajax, Barrie, Brampton, Brantford, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Clarington, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Markham, Milton, Mississauga, Niagara Falls, Oakville, Oshawa, Pickering, Richmond Hill, St. Catharines, Vaughan, Waterloo, Whitby, and Windsor.