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Cambridge mayor says she won’t change leadership style when strong mayor powers arrive

Click to play video: 'Ontario expanding ‘strong mayor’ powers to 26 more cities'
Ontario expanding ‘strong mayor’ powers to 26 more cities
WATCH: Ontario expanding ‘strong mayor’ powers to 26 more cities – Jun 16, 2023

With less than a week to go before new legislation comes into effect giving mayors in most major Ontario cities extra powers, Cambridge Mayor Jan Liggett says she does not expect to have to use them.

On June 16, the Ford government announced it was extending so-called strong mayor powers to another 26 cities, including Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo, which join Ottawa and Toronto, where they had already been applied.

The move allows mayors to propose housing-related bylaws and pass them as long as they have the support of one-third of council.

It also allows them to override council approval of bylaws that would prevent the creation of more homes.

The mayors would also be able to hire and fire department heads without approval from the rest of council.

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Click to play video: 'Doug Ford fires back on strong mayor criticism'
Doug Ford fires back on strong mayor criticism

While the province says it is making the change on July 1 to cut red tape and allow for the creation of more homes, critics have declared concerns about the move being undemocratic.

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Liggett issued a statement on Monday which says she does not expect to use the powers, although it does not outright say she won’t either.

“Each mayor who received these powers will have to decide for themselves how best to use them,” she said.

“For me, this was not something I asked for and I am fortunate in having a council where we work collectively on behalf of our community in ways that we believe work in its best interest; community building as a team.

“This announcement doesn’t change my style or how I will continue to lead as mayor.”

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The Cambridge mayor noted that four months ago, Cambridge council set a target of building 19,000 new homes by 2031 and has 12,000 units in active applications at the moment.

Liggett pointed out that city council will continue to work to provide housing to help address the shortage in Ontario.

“Democracy is alive and well around our horseshoe and that will continue in the future,” she wrote. “I have such an amazing council that understands its responsibilities and the hope is that we steward Cambridge, together as others have before us, and leave behind for future generations a legacy of a spirited city where everyone wants to live and business flourishes.”

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic has expressed similar sentiments about the new legislation over the past few weeks as he says his city is also working toward adding more housing.

“Kitchener Council historically has operated in a highly collaborative manner, which has already led to positive results and significant progress towards our housing pledge to build 35,000 additional homes in Kitchener by 2031,” he stated when the legislation was announced by the Ontario government.

– with files from The Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'Kingston is 1 of 26 Ontario cities to get ‘strong mayor’ powers from the province'
Kingston is 1 of 26 Ontario cities to get ‘strong mayor’ powers from the province

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