One of Doug Ford’s first orders of business after winning the election in 2018 was the euphemistically-termed Better Local Government Act, which cut Toronto’s wards from 45 to 24 in the middle of the election. The bill also forced Kingston and London to abolish their ranked-ballot voting system and return to the traditional first-past-the-post voting system.
One of Doug Ford’s first orders of business after winning the election this June was to further meddle in municipal affairs to the detriment of democracy.
On August 10, Minister Steven Clark introduced the Strong Mayors, Build Homes Act. The Bill is stone-heavy on consolidating power in the mayor’s office and undermining democracy and accountability. And this bill is light as air on addressing housing affordability and spurring new housing construction. In fact, the word housing isn’t mentioned in the bill at all.
Here’s what’s in the bill.
- The bill gives the Mayor of Toronto and Ottawa additional powers currently decided by the council.
- The mayor will be able to able to appoint their municipality’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) themselves or delegate the decision, such as by asking their councils to make this decision.
- Mayors would also be able to hire certain department heads, such as the TTC and the TCHC. This measure excludes statutory positions such as a clerk, treasurer, integrity commissioner, chief of police, chief building official, medical officer of health and others. They would also be able to delegate this power, such as to council.
- Mayors will be allowed to create newly identified committees and appoint the chairs and vice-chairs of identified committees and local boards.
- The proposed changes would empower mayors to direct items to council that could potentially advance a provincial priority. This proposal would also authorize a mayor to direct staff to develop proposals to be brought forward for council consideration. The government has not defined its provincial priorities but intends to do so in future regulations.
- If passed, this legislation would make a mayor responsible for proposing the municipal budget for council consideration. As part of the budget process, council would be able to make changes to the mayor’s proposed budget, which the mayor could then veto. Council could override a mayoral veto with a two-thirds majority vote.
- Mayors would gain the power to veto council’s passing of a by-law if all or part of the by-law could potentially interfere with a provincial priority. Council could override a mayoral veto of by-laws related to provincial priorities, with a two-thirds majority vote.
Here’s what’s not in the bill.
- There’s no expanded inclusionary zoning law to require developers to include community benefits and affordable housing in new developments.
- There’s no plan to end exclusionary zoning to make it easier and quicker to build more affordable missing middle homes, like townhomes, duplexes, and triplexes in existing neighbourhoods.
- There’s no plan to invest in community housing or supportive housing to address the worst homelessness crisis Ontario has faced in decades.
- There’s no plan to build affordable housing and non-market housing on public land. There’s no commitment to establish a provincial public builder to build homes at cost, a program to provide generous loans and financing to developers to build affordable housing.
- And there’s no measure to strengthen rent control to make housing more affordable and stable for the 1.4 million Ontario renter households who cannot afford a million-dollar home or even their monthly rent. After all, Ontario’s median household income in 2022 is $52,600.
There’s no interest in curbing investor speculation to make it easier for Ontarians to buy and rent a home they intend to live in, raise their children, have pets, grow a garden, and retire in.
- Multiple property owners – investors - are the top purchaser of homes in Ontario today. To address the housing affordability crisis, we must build new homes, period. And we must take measure to ensure the homes we build are for people who intend to live in them first, and not for the investors who seek to profit from them.
These are the comprehensive suite of measures the Ontario government should implement to ensure current and future Ontarians live in a home they can afford. Not legislation that just makes it harder for everyday people to engage with democracy.
It’s a summer legislative session, and the government has just begun another four year term. This is when the PCs will introduce their harmful and unpopular legislation. They’re hoping you’ll forget. I’m hoping you’ll organize.
Here’s the backgrounder.
Here’s the bill.
Please contact me if you have:
- feedback on this bill
- would like to sign up to speak to MPPs about the bill (You can sign up to apply to speak in committee right now @ https://www.ola.org/en/get-involved/participate-committees)
- have amendments you would like me to introduce
- written statements you’d like me to read into the legislature or raise in question period, or
- if you’re organizing on this issue.
We’ll have more updates soon.