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Posted in Bylaws / Regulations, Development, Legislation, Zoning


Premier Doug Ford’s government insists “strong mayor” powers for Toronto and Ottawa will fast-track construction of duplexes, triplexes, laneway suites and other projects stalled by exclusionary zoning.

Testifying at the legislative committee studying his new bill, Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark stressed the “Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act” is aimed at accelerating housing approvals.

“We need housing of all types. We need family-size condos, we need purpose-built rentals, we need homes that have different price ranges for different people,” Clark said at Queen’s Park on Thursday.

Under the legislation, the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa would have sweeping new authority over municipal budgets and the hiring and firing of senior city staff.

Only a two-thirds vote of council could overrule a “strong mayor” on major matters.

Clark said those powers would eventually be granted to other large cities, such as Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton in order to help the Progressive Conservatives meet their election pledge to build 1.5 million housing units in the next decade.

A “strong mayor” could veto any bylaw passed by councillors if it interferes with a provincial priority.

That “could include but is not limited to transit, roads and utilities,” Clark told the all-party committee.

Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon (Beaches-East York), a former Toronto city councillor, pressed the minister on the Tories’ urban housing priorities.

“Would it be town homes, co-op housing, affordable rental, triplexes, duplexes, laneway suites, or are we just focusing on one single family detached homes, which we know will not solve the housing crisis?” asked McMahon.

Nodding in agreement, Clark said the government’s plan “really fits that narrative that you just mentioned by providing a wide variety of housing options.”

In cities like Toronto, exclusionary zoning rules are often used by so-called “not-in-my-backyard” opponents — or NIMBYs — to prevent multi-family homes from being built in traditionally single-family neighbourhoods.

“You as a former municipal councillor understand the fact that the budget is critical for putting that plan in place to be able to get shovels in the ground faster,” the minister told McMahon.

But NDP MPP Jeff Burch (Niagara Centre) said Clark’s legislation falls short.

“There’s really nothing in the bill about building homes, there’s nothing that implements a single recommendation of the housing affordability task force that you mentioned, such as any exclusionary zoning,” said Burch.

“There’s nothing that … assures the construction of affordable homes, there’s nothing that ensures the construction of basement apartments or laneway homes or granny flats, nothing that expands ‘inclusionary’ zoning,” he said.

Clark countered that “we have a housing supply crisis,” so the Tories had to act.

“It’s not a new concept nor is it the first time it’s been raised in our province,” he said, pointing out former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty proposed a strong mayor for Toronto in 2008.

“So this isn’t something that hasn’t been discussed. Mayor (David) Miller when he was the mayor of Toronto talked about this extensively with the government of the day,” said Clark.

In retirement from politics, Miller has changed his tune, writing recently in the Star with other former mayors that a strong-mayor system “risks ending meaningful democratic local government.”

The minister scoffed at that claim.

“Strong-mayor systems work very well in other jurisdictions, cities like Chicago, London, Los Angeles and Paris. A strong-mayor system helps local governments deliver those local services and (address) priorities for their communities,” said Clark.

The law, which will take effect in time for the Oct. 24 municipal election, would empower the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to appoint a chief administrative officer and hire and fire city department heads.

But they would not have the authority to make “statutory appointments,” such as the chief of police, the fire chief, the chief medical officer of health, the auditor general, the head of a transit commission or the integrity commissioner.

They would, however, have the authority to create and reorganize city departments as well as continue their existing ability to appoint the chairs of council committees.


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