The Ontario government is putting forward legislation that would give Toronto's mayor greater powers, but what exactly does that mean?
Toronto City Council currently delegates some of the powers included in the proposed legislation to the mayor already, but the new law would make it impossible for council to take away those powers. Others, such as a veto power on matters of provincial importance, are completely new.
Here's a rundown of some of the changes Doug Ford's government is proposing for the mayor’s office.
CONTROLLING THE CITY’S BUDGET
Currently, council as a whole has the duty and power to prepare a budget and to direct municipal staff for that purpose. Toronto has a budget committee, which takes charge of preparing the city's budget each year.
Under the new framework, the mayor would have the responsibility for preparing and tabling a municipal budget each year for council’s consideration.
Council would have a prescribed amount of time to pass amendments and the mayor in turn would have a prescribed amount of time to veto amendments. Council would then have a chance to override any of the mayor’s vetoes.
At the end of the override period, the resulting budget would be deemed to be adopted.
A new veto power would allow the mayor to override council on matters of “provincial priority.”
The mayor would still have one vote on regular council decisions, but could use the veto to override a council-approved bylaw when he believes that doing so would further a provincial priority.
The government has yet to clarify what could be considered a provincial priority.
They would have to give notice of intent to consider vetoing the bylaw within two days of council passing that bylaw and would only be able to use the veto within 14 days.
The mayor would also have to provide written reasons for using the veto.
Council would be able to override a mayoral veto with a two-thirds majority within 21 days.
APPOINTING A CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER (CAO)
Currently, Toronto City Council appoints a city manager, also known as a chief administrative officer or CAO, who oversees the municipal bureaucracy. The job is the highest unelected position at the city.
Under the new framework, the mayor would have the authority to appoint a city manager, though they could also choose to delegate this power to council or to another body.
HIRING DEPARTMENT HEADS AND CREATING / REORGANIZING DEPARTMENTS
Council currently has the power to hire and fire city staff through bylaws. The proposed framework would give the mayor the authority to hire department heads and to create or reorganize departments as he/she sees fit. This power would not apply to statutory appointments for positions such as the auditor general, police chief, fire chief or the medical officer of health.
APPOINTING CHAIRS FOR COMMITTEES AND LOCAL BOARDS
Council currently holds the power to appoint members of committees and establish committees, though Toronto City Council delegates the authority to appoint committee chairs to the mayor.
The Ford government’s legislation would give the mayor authority, by provincial law, to appoint committee chairs and to establish committees. The mayor would also have the authority to appoint chairs of local boards, but could choose to delegate this power.
ABILITY TO ADD ITEMS OF "PROVINCIAL PRIORITY" TO THE COUNCIL AGENDA
Municipalities are required to pass procedure bylaws which govern council meetings, including how matters are added to the agenda at council meetings.
While Toronto has a policy which allows the mayor to add new business to the council agenda without first going through a committee, the new law would give the mayor provincially-granted powers to add agenda items that are "aligned with provincial priorities.”
The mayor would also be able to direct staff to develop proposals to be brought forward to council.
VACANCY FOR MAYOR WOULD HAVE TO BE FILLED THROUGH BYELECTION
Vacancies on city council can currently be filled through either a byelection or appointment by council.
The proposed change would require that any vacancy in the mayor’s office be filled only through a byelection.
However some caveats would still apply.
In an election year, byelections cannot be held to fill a vacancy after March 31. In this case, council would be allowed to fill the vacancy by appointment, but the appointed mayor would not have the ‘strong mayor’ powers.