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Former mayors of Toronto pen letter to Mayor John Tory, urging him to reject strong-mayor powers

In a statement Sunday night, Tory’s deputy chief of staff Don Peat said the Mayor’s office will be reviewing the letter.
Nov. 21, 2022
Kelly Skjerven

Former Toronto mayors including David Crombie, David Miller and Barbara Hall have penned a letter to Mayor John Tory asking him to reject a bill that gives him power to pass bylaws with minority support.

Also known as strong mayor legislation, Bill 39 was introduced by Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark on Wednesday, allowing the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to pass bylaws aligning with provincial priorities “if more than one-third of council members vote in favour.”

This means Tory can enact some policies with the support of only eight other councillors of the 26-member council.

The province has said the changes are necessary to allow the mayors of the Ontario’s big cities to get more housing built.

The letter, sent to the mayor’s office on Sunday just before 5 p.m. via email, stated the former mayors were “appalled at this attack on one of the essential tenets of our local democracy and a fundamental democratic mechanism: majority rule.”

The former mayors, including Art Eggleton and John Sewell, said they were also “fearful” of the “real substantive risks” the city would face from the bill.

The letter stresses that majority rule should be the principle by which city council operates.

“We are now in a time when our provincial government is revealing its real agenda for our future. It is a disturbing future. It includes the unwinding of our Greenbelt and the hollowing out of the mandate of Conservation Authorities that were created to protect us from environmental disaster,” the letter reads.

“The province is also taking steps toward the intentional reduction of farmland in favour of more urban sprawl and the stripping away of rules and regulations supporting the building of healthy and affordable communities. All of this is taking place this within a matter of months into a new mandate, without having put these troublesome changes before the voters. This is alarming in the extreme,” the letter continues.

Some councillors have also pushed back on the legislation, including Coun. Josh Matlow and Coun. Gord Perks.

On Wednesday afternoon, Tory’s office asserted the mayor would only use the new powers “when they are necessary to move forward housing” and other key issues.

In a statement Sunday night, Tory’s deputy chief of staff Don Peat said the mayor’s office will be reviewing the letter.

“The Mayor was clear throughout the election that he supports a ‘strong mayor’ system and he was also clear that his leadership style and overall approach to City Council won’t change -- he will continue to work with City Council to get things done for the people of Toronto,” Peat said.

Peat added that Tory has indicated he will “make very limited use of this measure.”

“We raised this change with the province to make sure we can get more housing built as quickly as possible, to avoid NIMBYism, and to help make sure this new system works as efficiently as possible,” Peat stated.

Ex-mayors have urged Tory to change course before.

In 2015, Tory abandoned his support for police carding after being called out by civic leaders including Crombie, who endorsed Tory for mayor in 2014, Sewell and Hall.