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Ontario introduces ‘strong mayor’ legislation to speed up housing development

Click to play video: 'Toronto Council debates strong mayor powers' Toronto Council debates strong mayor powers
WATCH ABOVE: Toronto Council debates strong mayor powers. Matthew Bingley reports – Jul 21, 2022

Ontario is proposing to give the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa veto powers over bylaws that conflict with provincial priorities, such as building housing.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark introduced the legislation Wednesday, called the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act.

It would allow the mayors of those two cities to override council approval of a bylaw, for example a zoning bylaw, that would hamper a set of provincial priorities that will be set out later in regulations.

But examples of priorities that government officials give include the goal of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years and building critical infrastructure.

Read more: Ford government considers increasing power wielded by Toronto, Ottawa mayors

A council could override the mayor’s veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

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The legislation would also give the mayors the responsibility for preparing and tabling their city’s budget, instead of council, appoint a chief administrative officer, and hire and fire department heads, except for statutory appointments such as an auditor general, police chief or fire chief.

The mayors of other large cities have expressed interest in such powers, and officials say the government could add new cities to the legislation later through regulation.

Ford did not indicate during the recent election campaign that he was planning to introduce such legislation.

But it comes after Clark had previously suggested his efforts to take big steps on increasing housing supply were being stymied by municipalities.

The government passed legislation in the spring to streamline approval processes in a bid to boost housing supply but it lacked key measures advocates and experts have long urged, including changing municipal zoning rules to allow more types of housing to be built aside from single-family homes.

Clark said at the time that was because municipalities weren’t on board, saying local councils are often “adamantly opposed” to the types of reforms he wanted to bring forward.

House prices in Ontario nearly tripled in the last 10 years, far outpacing income growth, a government-commissioned task force report said last year, but the province is 1.2 million homes — both rental and owned — short of the G7 average.

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