Kingston mayor among those offered ‘strong mayor powers’ in Ontario

Mayor Brian Paterson speaks to an assembly in 2021, about an announcement by the federal government that the city would receive $7.4 million for rapid housing.

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson is among the 26 Ontario mayors of large and fast-growing municipalities who have been offered tools to help cut red tape and speed up the delivery of key shared municipal-provincial priorities such as housing, transit and infrastructure in their municipalities, according to the provincial government.

The Ontario government is expanding “strong mayor powers” to these mayors who, along with their Council, have committed to a housing pledge as part of the province’s work to build 1.5 million homes by 2031, according to a release from the Ontario government.

The announcement was made by Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, during a meeting of the Ontario Big City Mayors, on Friday, Jun. 16, 2023. Strong mayor powers for Toronto and Ottawa took effect in the Fall of 2022 and will be expanded to mayors in the other municipalities — Kingston included — on Saturday, Jul. 1, 2023.

In response to Kingstonist inquiries as to how he feels about the announcement, as well as how this change might impact the municipality, Mayor Paterson issued a statement.

“Today’s announcement doesn’t change my style or how I will continue to lead as Mayor. Anyone who has worked with me knows, I am not going to all of a sudden start wielding this tool, but I am also not going to rule it out if there were situations in the future that may require considering it. I think that’s just a practical and measured approach,” Paterson said in the statement.

“However, more importantly, we have a tremendous council, they are really committed to solving our housing crisis and working together and I look forward to continuing that.”

According to the province, strong mayor powers offer tools to help bring increased accountability for local leaders, while checks and balances maintain the important oversight role of councillors. For example, council may override the mayor’s veto of by-laws or budget amendments with a two-thirds majority vote.

Strong mayor powers and duties include:

  • Choosing to appoint the municipality’s chief administrative officer
  • Hiring certain municipal department heads, and establishing and re-organizing departments
  • Creating committees of council, assigning their functions, and appointing the chairs and vice-chairs of committees of council
  • Proposing the municipal budget, which would be subject to council amendments and a separate head of council veto and council override process
  • Vetoing certain by-laws if the head of council is of the opinion that all or part of the by-law could potentially interfere with a provincial priority
  • Bringing forward matters for council consideration if the head of council is of the opinion that considering the matter could potentially advance a provincial priority

The Ontario government noted that these measures will support municipalities as they work to meet their commitments and support the construction of the new homes their residents “need and deserve.”

One thought on “Kingston mayor among those offered ‘strong mayor powers’ in Ontario

  • A “strong mayor” can only be overruled by 2/3 vote. This is not a democracy and could result in the temptation to push one’s own agenda forward, such as clearcutting the downtown forest of nearly 2000 trees by the grandmother oak tree for “condos with a view” for wealthy people. This area could become a bio-remediation park with walking trails for all. A truly strong mayor would refuse an unethical gift.

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