Strong(er) Mayors in Ontario – What Difference Will They Make?
On October 19, 2022, IMFG convened a public panel discussion titled “Strong(er) Mayors – What Difference Will They Make?” The speakers were Karen Chapple, director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto; City Hall journalist Matt Elliott; Alison Smith, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto; and Gabriel Eidelman, assistant professor, teaching stream, at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.
The panel was moderated by Zack Taylor, associate professor of political science at Western University. The discussion and follow-up questions by the audience brought to the surface a variety of perspectives, both for and against the “strong mayor” provisions of the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act passed by the Ontario legislature on September 8, 2022. This commentary contextualizes and summarizes the speakers’ remarks. It also takes account of the additional provisions in the Better Municipal Governance Act passed on December 8, 2022, and the February 17, 2023, resignation of Mayor John Tory.
The invited speakers provided insights on specific aspects of the law and their implications. Karen Chapple discussed the inspiration for the reform, American “strong mayor” cities. Matt Elliot probed how the relationship between the mayor and councillors might change. Alison Smith talked about the provincial-municipal intergovernmental relationship and the politics of housing policy. Finally, Gabriel Eidelman examines the implications of the change for the relationship between elected officials and professional administrative staff. Zack Taylor provides context for the discussion and, in his conclusion, addresses questions such as the risk of politicizing the public service, the implications for small and regional municipalities, and the role of the province.