Ontario introduces Better Municipal Governance Act to ‘extend’ mayor ‘powers,’ build more houses

By Amanda Jerome

Law360 Canada (November 16, 2022, 4:41 PM EST) -- The Ontario government has introduced the Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022, proposed legislation that, if passed, would assess how to “extend strong mayor powers and reduce municipal duplication to deliver on shared provincial-municipal priorities — primarily the building of 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years.”

According to a government release, issued Nov. 16, “provincially-appointed facilitators will be tasked with assessing the regional governments in Durham, Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo and York.”

“These facilitators will work with local governments to assess the best mix of roles and responsibilities between upper and lower-tier municipalities and ensure they are equipped to deliver on the government’s commitment to tackle the housing supply crisis,” the release explained, noting the proposed legislation would “allow the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to appoint the Regional Chairs of Niagara, Peel and York regions for the current term of council.”

According to the release, if these proposals are passed, “the Minister intends to re-appoint the existing regional chairs — Jim Bradley in Niagara, Nando Iannicca in Peel, and Wayne Emerson in York,” which will “provide continuity and stability at the regional level as facilitators consider how best to extend strong mayor powers to existing two-tier municipalities that are shovel-ready and committed to growth and cutting red tape.”

Steve Clark, minister of municipal affairs and housing, said “these bold actions are necessary if our government is to keep its commitment to Ontarians and remove the obstacles standing in the way of much-needed housing.”

“That’s why we are again taking decisive action to provide municipal leaders the tools they need to plan for future population growth and get more homes built faster,” he added in a statement.

The release also noted that the proposed legislation would “implement additional changes to enable the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to propose certain municipal bylaws related to provincial priorities and enable council to pass these by-laws if more than one-third of council members vote in favour.”

“Provincial priorities include building more homes, which could, for example, involve expanding the footprint of transit-oriented communities so more people can live, work and play near the convenience of public transit,” the release added.

According to the release, “existing municipal accountability frameworks would continue to apply to heads of council with strong mayor powers, including conflict of interest rules” and “heads of council would also be required to provide council and the clerk a copy of the bylaw and reasons for the proposal when using the proposed bylaw power.”

The Municipal Act and the City of Toronto Act provide Ontario’s municipalities with broad powers to pass bylaws on various matters within their jurisdiction — such as zoning, parking, and the delivery of local services,” the release noted.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact Amanda Jerome at Amanda.Jerome@lexisnexis.ca or 416-524-2152.