The Ford government is working on legislation that is expected to grant increased powers to Toronto’s and Ottawa’s mayors, as well as tackling the issue of housing affordability.
The story was first reported by The Toronto Star and was independently verified by Global News with three separate sources.
The legislation will be tabled in a matter of weeks, after the Ontario legislature returns for a rare summer sitting, beginning on Aug. 8.
One source, speaking confidentially, told Global News the powers wielded by the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa will be increased so they operate as mayors with “strong powers.”
Under the current municipal system in Ontario, the mayor is just one vote on council and needs a majority of councillors to support motions, reports or projects.
If the province’s new legislation significantly increases the power of mayors, the role of individual municipal councillors could be diminished.
The powers could also include a mayoral veto on council, the source said.
A different source said no formal cabinet discussions had taken place and that the scope of the legislation was still being refined.
Voters across Ontario will go to the polls on Oct. 24 to vote in municipal elections for mayors and local councillors.
Meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement on Wednesday morning that “strong mayor” powers is something he’s previously said he “would support.”
“I understand this is something that the Province is exploring in order to get more homes built as quickly as possible,” Tory’s statement continued. “As Mayor, I am absolutely determined to get more housing built – no matter what powers I have as Mayor.”
“At the end of the day, no matter what, my job remains the same, to work with City Council and every elected official that wants to work with me to get things done for the people of Toronto.”
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The potential upheaval at Toronto and Ottawa city hall mirrors a controversial move Ford made in 2018, when he cut the size of Toronto city council in half before the last round of local elections.
In 2018, the municipal campaign was well underway when the Ontario legislature passed a law that reduced the number of council seats in Toronto to 25 from 47, aligning them with federal ridings.
Ford — a former Toronto city councillor and failed mayoral candidate — argued at the time that the change would streamline council operations and save $25 million.
Reacting to the news Ford could again become involved in how government operates at city hall, Toronto Coun. Gord Perks said, “the Premier of Ontario thinks the people of Toronto are incapable of governing themselves.”
He asked for city staff to bring a brief report on the issue back to council on Wednesday.
— with files from The Canadian Press
An earlier version of this story suggested the new powers would be part of a broader package of municipal legislation, including inclusionary zoning. A spokesperson for Ford said that was not accurate but refused to provide further details.