Trade board backs stronger powers for Toronto mayor as council weighs changes

The Toronto Board of Trade is signaling its support for giving the mayor stronger powers while the city council debates the issue.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Toronto Region Board of Trade said it “welcomes government action” to give Toronto stronger mayoral powers.

“Toronto faces numerous pressing challenges across the city, from housing, land use, transit, transportation, budget, economic development and climate,” the board said in its statement. “Effective and timely solutions require a city chief executive with clear authority to set an agenda, appoint high-level city staff, and present policy solutions to the Council with greater influence over outcomes.”

The statement comes after the revelation, first reported by the Toronto Star, that Ontario Premier Doug Ford is considering legislating strong powers for the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa, similar to the executive authorities they enjoy in many cities in the US, before the municipal elections in October.

While it’s not yet clear exactly what powers the new legislation might give the mayor, it’s believed it would give the city’s highest-ranking elected official more control over the city’s budget and housing matters.

Toronto currently has a weak mayor system, which means the mayor is the highest-ranking elected official, but still represents only one vote on the council when it comes to most decisions.

Ford said Wednesday that “we’ll talk about the details later” when it comes to the specific powers that would be granted, but said a two-thirds majority could override the mayor’s decision in council.

The trade board said Thursday that it has advocated stronger powers for Toronto’s mayor for nearly two decades and that the current consensus-based system “hurts business.”

“The current structure stifles Toronto’s growth, competitiveness and quality of life as one of the largest urban metropolises in North America and hurts business,” the board said.

In a speech to the board of trade several weeks ago, Mayor John Tory laid out his vision for the city’s finances, saying he is focused on economic recovery.

Tory, who is up for re-election in October, promised he would assemble a volunteer panel of accomplished leaders to advise him on the economic challenges facing Toronto as it continues to emerge from the pandemic.

The idea of ​​giving stronger powers to the mayor has already drawn criticism from other council members. A motion being debated by the city council today asks the council to affirm its position that any changes to Toronto’s elections or governance structure must be decided by the Toronto City Council. The motion, presented by the Count. Josh Matlow also specifically requests that the province not implement a strong mayoral system for Toronto.

Whatever the outcome of the motion is, it is likely to be little more than symbolic as the constitution does not give municipalities their own enshrined powers and the Ford government has previously shown indifference to the council’s wishes when it comes to making changes to the municipal government structure.

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