Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, has come out with a new plan to help the housing crisis in Toronto, and Ontario more broadly. Currently, in these areas the housing demand is on the rise, while availability is limited, making the pricing very high.
Ford has proposed a ‘Strong Mayor’ system to help with the problem. Ontario Greens believe that if this system were to be put in place, it would be a direct attack on local democracy.
What is a Strong Mayor system?
Having a Strong Mayor system would not require any large institutional changes from Toronto or Ottawa, but it provides the current mayor with executive power to pass legislation without the agreement of the council. Ford believes this could help pass housing legislation faster to fight against the housing crisis.
Currently, these cities have a ‘Weak Mayor’ system. This means that the mayor is elected, however only has one vote in council. Ford states that the strong mayor system will get things done.
Although the specifics of the system have yet to be determined, we know that the mayor will control legislation especially through the budget. The mayor will have the power to authorise their agenda because they will have control over the budget.
How will this system help the housing crisis?
Essentially, having a strong mayor system will speed along the process of building for affordable housing in Ottawa and Toronto. Ford believes one of the reasons it has been too difficult to get new housing, is because councillors don’t agree on what to build. With a strong mayor, there will be less disagreements.
Although there are good aspects to having a Strong Mayor system, there are some downsides. These are the ones that worry Ontario Greens.
This new system focuses power to the top. This power can be detrimental if given to the wrong person. Focusing power to the top also goes against democratic thinking. Ontario Greens worry Ford is using the housing crisis as an excuse to implement a strong mayor system and weaken local democracy.
Steamrolling voices and concentrating power at the top is not the answer. And now they are exploiting the need for more housing as reasoning for their effort to weaken local democracy.Guelph MPP, Mike Schreiner
The Greens show that there is a different way to fight the housing crisis, for example ending exclusionary zoning and investing in affordable supply. It is crucial to keep a diversity of viewpoints when making decisions. We must continue to follow the rules of a representative government.
Since the specifics of the strong mayor system have yet to be given, it is difficult to tell whether or not the Greens concerns will be taken into consideration by Ford. However, one thing is clear: limiting local democracy is not the answer.