Strong(er) Mayors: What Difference Will They Make?
In October 2022, Ontarians elected new mayors and councils. In Toronto and Ottawa, the provincial government granted the next mayors notable new powers: greater control over the city’s budget and council committees, the ability to hire and fire senior staff and reorganize administrative divisions, and, most controversially, the ability to veto council-approved bylaws under certain circumstances. The Province will also establish “provincial priorities” that the mayor is empowered to pursue.
The provincial government’s strengthening of the mayor in Toronto and Ottawa, and its intention to expand the new powers to other Ontario cities, has attracted plenty of attention, both positive and negative.
On Wednesday, October 19, our expert panel examined what the “Strong Mayors” policy actually means: what difference will it really make? Is it a sea change or a tempest in a teapot? Will strong mayors actually mean stronger cities? Panelists will discuss:
- The international experience with “strong” municipal executives and how the Ontario plan may differ.
- How the new powers may change the relationship between the mayor and councillors – one that in the past has been based on persuasion and coalition-building.
- The mayor’s new power to propose the municipal budget and directly oversee the municipal administration.
- The “provincial priorities” power and its effect on local autonomy.
Karen Chapple, Ph.D., is the Director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, where she also serves as Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning. She is Professor Emerita of City & Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as department chair and held the Carmel P. Friesen Chair in Urban Studies. Chapple studies inequalities in the planning, development, and governance of regions in the U.S. and Latin America, with a focus on economic development and housing. Her most recent book is Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities (with Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, MIT Press, 2019).
Matt Elliott has covered Toronto City Hall for 12 years, offering readers insight, analysis and lots of charts. Starting as a blogger, he now contributes a weekly column to the Toronto Star and publishes City Hall Watcher, an award-winning independent newsletter providing in-depth news and analysis focused on the city’s municipal government. He also teaches journalism at Humber College and makes regular appearances on CBC Radio, Newstalk 1010 and other Toronto media outlets.
Gabriel Eidelman is Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, where he serves as director of the Urban Policy Lab, with a joint appointment at the Institute for Management and Innovation. His research focuses on cities, urban governance, and intergovernmental relations in Canada and North America, and has been published in numerous journals, including Cities, Urban Affairs Review, and the Journal of Urban Affairs. He is also co-editor of IMFG’s ‘Who Does What’ research series. In 2016, Gabriel co-led the City Hall Taskforce, which proposed changes to the mayor’s powers.
Alison Smith is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her teaching and research interests relate to Canadian politics and public policy, including complex policy making, homelessness governance, and the history of housing policy. Her book, Multiple Barriers: The Multilevel Governance of Homelessness in Canada was published in July, 2022. It asks why homelessness governance is so different across the country, and argues that the fact that homelessness can be defined so differently explains many of these differences.
Zack Taylor is an IMFG Fellow and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western University, London, Canada, where he teaches and researches on comparative urban political economy, urban policy and governance, and local public administration. His book Shaping the Metropolis: Institutions and Urbanization in the United States and Canada was published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2019.