Kingston, Ont. politicians waiting to see details of proposed provincial legislation set to expand powers for mayors

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Coalition of Kingston Communities Chair Christine Sypnowich calls expanded mayoral powers 'undemocratic' – Aug 17, 2022

Municipal politicians are waiting to see the details about proposed powers for Ontario mayors that would give them veto powers over legislation that isn’t in alignment with provincial priorities.

The Ontario premier has been selling the idea as a way to address the housing crisis in the province.

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Councillor Wayne Hill says he supports the idea in principal, but will reserve his final judgement for when he sees the details.

“I think it could work,” Hill says. “At the end of the day, we absolutely have to get housing built in our communities and if this one way to make sure that that happens, I think it has the potential to be a good thing.”

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It would take a two-thirds vote of council to override a mayors veto.

Political Studies PHD candidate Tim Abray from Queen’s University says the proposed mayoral powers would extend beyond housing.

“It will give any mayor who has it greater control over the agenda and greater control over the budgets within their communities,” Abray says.

That budget control is just one item on a long list of concerns for Councillor Jeff McLaren.

“We will only be able to add amendments to it as opposed to help direct it, and that is the single biggest power that council has,” McLaren says. “It’s directing where the money goes.”

Christine Sypnowich is with the Coalition of Kingston Communities, a group that advocates for transparency and accountability at City Hall.

“It’s undemocratic,” Sypnowich says.

“We in Kingston really should hold their feet to the fire, all those candidates for mayor,” she continues. “To ask them what they think about this policy and whether they would honour democratic principal.”

Mayor Bryan Paterson says representatives at the Association of Municipalities Ontario were calling on the province for consultations.

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Paterson says he needs to know more about the legislation before forming an opinion.

“Ultimately, I’d want to understand what those powers could mean,” Paterson says. “How is it that they could be useful and what situations might that be the case.”

The current legislation aimed at Toronto and Ottawa, if passed by the province, would come into effect with the next term of council.

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