CommunityFeature

Markham to receive ‘strong mayor’ powers

Strong mayor powers will be extended to the City of Markham, along with 25 additional municipalities, to get shovels in the ground faster to help the provincial government deliver on its goal to tackle the housing crisis.

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti is also calling on the provincial government to consolidate York Region’s 10 municipal governments – Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Whitchurch-Stouville and the Regional Municipality of York – into one city.

“The provincial government has taken bold steps restructuring the City of Toronto Council and Peel Region and should be doing the same in York Region,” he said. “There is no rationale for taking bold steps in other Greater Toronto Area cities and keeping the status quo in York Region.”

Strong mayor powers for Toronto and Ottawa took effect in Fall 2022 and will be expanded to mayors in large or fast-growing municipalities on July 1. They are single- or lower-tier municipalities with a population of more than 100,000 or growing to 100,000 by 2031 and have submitted a housing pledge to the province. Some mayors have said they have no plans to use the additional powers.

“Municipalities are critical partners for our government as we help communities get shovels in the ground faster and work to build more homes,” Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said at the meeting of Ontario Big City Mayors on June 14. “By adopting ambitious and absolutely necessary housing pledges, these 26 municipalities have demonstrated they understand the importance of that target and we are ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed. We welcome housing pledges from other municipalities to help reach our goal of 1.5 million homes by 2031.”

The 28 municipalities that will have strong mayor powers as of July 1 have collectively pledged to build 1.217 million units by 2031. That’s more than 81 per cent of the provincial target of 1.5 million homes, according to the provincial government.

Strong mayor powers offer tools to help heads of council cut red tape and speed up the delivery of key shared municipal-provincial priorities such as housing, transit and infrastructure in their municipalities. Those enhanced powers will also bring increased accountability for local leaders, while checks and balances maintain the important oversight role of councillors, the province assures. Council may override the mayor’s veto of by-laws or budget amendments with a two-thirds majority vote, for instance.

Strong mayor powers include choosing to appoint the municipality’s chief administrative officer; hiring certain municipal department heads and establishing and re-organizing departments; and creating committees of council, assigning their functions and appointing the chairs and vice-chairs of committees of council.

The powers also include 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; and 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.

 

Photo: Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti is also calling on the provincial government to consolidate York Region’s 10 municipal governments – Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Whitchurch-Stouville and the Regional Municipality of York – into one city. (Dreamstime photo)

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