15 Toronto city councillors voice concern over strong mayor powers in letter to province
Published Tuesday, December 6, 2022 5:43PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 6, 2022 8:08PM EST
More than a dozen Toronto councillors, representing a majority of city council, have signed an open letter to the Ontario government expressing their concern about legislation giving more powers to the mayor.
In the letter addressed to Premier Doug Ford and Housing Minister Steve Clark, 15 councillors asked them to reconsider passing Bill 39 or the Better Municipal Governance Act 2022.
They said their main concern is how the bill would end majority rule at city council. Bill 39, which is making its way through Queen's Park, would allow Mayor John Tory to propose and amend bylaws deemed provincial priorities with just over one-third of council support.
"Bill 39 is moving quickly through the Ontario Legislature and is expected to pass this week, but Toronto City Council has not had an opportunity to debate or consult with residents on this fundamental change in our governance," the councillors wrote.
"We are writing you today because we are concerned that we have not had a chance for input on the governance of our city or to weigh in on the impacts on the checks and balances of power that would result from the loss of majority rule at Toronto City Council."
Councillors who signed the letter include Gord Perks, Josh Matlow, Anthony Perruzza, Mike Colle, Paula Fletcher, Jaye Robinson, Shelley Carroll and Michael Thompson.
First-time councillors Amber Morley, Ausma Malik, Alejandra Bravo, Dianne Saxe, Chris Moise, Lily Cheng and Jamaal Myers also signed the letter.
Carroll, Morley, and Cheng sit on Tory’s hand picked executive committee. Thompson, meanwhile, served as Tory’s deputy mayor in the last term of council.
The councillors pointed out to the province that a motion was passed in July asking the government to consult with the city if it plans to grant more powers to the mayor.
"We are committed to the relationship with the Province of Ontario as outlined in Part I of the City of Toronto Act 2006: one that is based on 'mutual respect, consultation, and cooperation," the councillors wrote.
"Toronto City Council should be governed by majority rule, and any changes to Toronto's governance should be decisions made by City Council and local residents."
Councillor Perks sent a separate letter to Tory last week asking him to call a special meeting of council to debate Bill 39, saying it's necessary so that he and others can give input before it is passed.
“I respect councillors making their views known on this issue – as they do on many other issues. There will be a City staff report coming to City Council in a week to provide details on the province's Bill 3 and Bill 39. I look forward to an informed and respectful debate taking place at that time,” Tory said in a statement on Tuesday.
The mayor added that he will continue to work collaboratively with councillors to get things done.
“Even with the provincial changes set to be approved at Queen's Park this week, my determination to always try to reach a Council consensus on the issues our city faces remains steadfast,” Tory said.
During his opening remarks in last month's council meeting, Tory said every action he takes under the strong mayor legislation would be public and that he will only use the controversial veto on housing and transit matters of citywide importance.
Bill 39 will grant more authority to the city's chief magistrate in addition to the powers the province already gave in the fall.
Last week, Tory used those powers to appoint a new city manager.
- with files from CTV News Toronto's Katherine DeClerq