Ontario’s Strong Mayor Legislation Is An Unacceptable Attack On Toronto’s Democracy.

Increasingly people in Toronto are complaining they don’t feel like they’re a part of the City, but a victim of it. Fewer decisions are being made to benefit the residents here, and the opinions of a few plutocrats have begun to trump all. The worst part is this attack isn’t coming from a foreign country or openly hostile actor, but the Provincial leadership that should be working with us. 

The latest battle is the “strong-mayor” system designed to give veto to the Mayor and limit the influence of councillors. This comes at a time when democracy is crumbling at an alarming rate and its preservation is more important than ever. 

Ontario’s Strong-Mayor Legislation Is An Attack On Democracy

Ontario’s “strong-mayor” legislation will override democracy and limit the influence of communities. It gives the Mayor unprecedented power to veto laws and override agendas, limiting council’s power. Under this legislation, the province wants your councillor not to represent you, but merely provide suggestions for governance. 

Here’s the kicker though — the veto powers only apply to “Provincial priorities.” What are those priorities? Well, they’re loosely defined, leaving it open to interpretation. Don’t worry about it I guess? Jeez. 

Just when you think this can’t get any worse, it really does. The vetoes are only a part of this bill. The Mayor also has the power to appoint the city manager, the municipal government’s most powerful unelected role. Further, they can create or eliminate City organizations whenever they want. 

The plan also only targeted Toronto and Ottawa. While they’re suggesting new cities now, it’s a little odd that a Premier would require so much local-level control of the City he lives in, ignoring virtually the rest of Ontario. If your alarms aren’t going off, you’re not paying attention. 

Torontonians Are Seeing Their Opinions Matter Less and Less

The strong-mayor legislation is just the latest attack to subvert the power of Torontonians in Canada. Right before the 2018 election, the Premier of Ontario unilaterally made the decision to cut the number of Wards in the City from 47 to 25, reducing the influence of local communities. As Toronto gets larger, a government largely elected by people outside of the City is making decisions to concentrate power in the hands of one person.  

Is it legal? Sure. Is it ethical? Absolutely not. 

Toronto Needs Representation, Not A Dictator

There are a few exceptions, but most people are reasonable and can be convinced to adopt a strong plan. Most people lacking a reasonable conclusion typically just don’t have enough information. Explaining the issues in detail helps to minimize irrational responses. 

There are a few people that can’t come to a reasonable compromise, ever. Self-interest or greed can screw the whole system, but that’s the exact reason you want more people involved in governance, not fewer. Bias from outlying opinions is reduced when a larger group of decision makers work together.

Whoever you vote for as mayor should pledge not to use these powers to foster anti-democratic processes. If it isn’t clear, I pledge not to use these powers and instead plan to work with council members and community leaders to build a more democratic process and send a message that this isn’t okay. 

Side note: the only reason they could muster to explain why a “strong mayor” system should be implemented was to help build more housing. My housing affordability policy will do that equitably, without this system.