Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park in Toronto on July 20, Ford said he plans to bring in a “strong-mayor” system for Toronto and Ottawa so that mayors are given enhanced powers over financial matters and appointments.
Ford said it will be a trial run, and if successful, will expand to other cities such as Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton.
“I just think that be it the mayor of Toronto or Ottawa, or any mayor, they’re accountable for everything but they have the same single vote as a single councillor,” he said at the press event on July 20.
“And no matter if it’s a good decision or a tough decision that they make, they have to be accountable and (this) just allows them the ability, not the power—I always say you have a tremendous amount of responsibility and ability—to make the appropriate changes.”
According to the current Ontario municipal councillor’s guide, a mayor takes on the role of head of the council and acts as the chief executive officer of the municipality.
“Municipal decisions, however, are made by council as a whole. Generally, the head of council does not have any more power than any other member of council to make decisions on behalf of the municipality,”the guide says. “Each member of council only has one vote.”
With a strong-mayor system, it can grant mayors many more powers such as the ability to veto city council decisions, appoint and remove department heads, and oversee daily operations of their cities, similar to the U.S. National League of Cities, an organization representing municipalities in the United States.
Some councillors in Toronto and Ottawa spoke out against the planned provincial move.
In a Twitter post on July 19, Ottawa mayoral candidate and councillor Catherine McKenney called the proposal an “anti-democratic move” that would remove decision-making power from residents and their council representatives.
In Toronto, Coun. Mike Layton said the issue goes beyond the powers of current mayor John Tory, who is seeking re-election to a third term this fall.
“It’s about what could happen if this power fell into the wrong hands, regardless of your political stripe,” he said in a tweet on July 20.
Ford told reporters that the “veto” powers to be given to mayors can still be overruled by their respective city councils.
“Two-thirds of the council can overrule the mayor, but we’ll get more in-depth once everything goes through there,” he said.
In a statement posted on Twitter on July 20, Tory said he is in favour of a “strong-mayor” system.
“’Strong Mayor’ powers are something that I’ve said I would support – I talked about it before the last election,” he said.
“I understand this is something that the Province is exploring in order to get more homes built as quickly as possible.”
According to the Canadian Press, a spokesperson for Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the mayor was on annual leave and would not be able to comment on July 20. Watson has said he’s not seeking re-election.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.