A group of former Toronto mayors is pushing back against Premier Doug Ford’s sweeping new legislation that heightens mayoral powers in Toronto and Ottawa. 

Five former Toronto mayors are calling on Mayor John Tory to rescind his support for the Better Municipal Governance Act (Bill 39), which was tabled on November 16. The act would allow the mayor to pass local bylaws on issues “within a provincial interest” with support from just one third of city council. These powers can be used on bylaws surrounding the creation of housing, transit-oriented development, or infrastructure. 

The Premier’s office says the move is designed to get more homes built faster in response to the province’s affordable housing crisis. But former mayors Art Eggleton, David Crombie, Barbara Hall, David Miller, and John Sewell aren’t fans. 

In a letter emailed to Mayor Tory’s office on Sunday evening, the group called the bill “undemocratic.” They stressed that the current “majority rule” system should be left untouched.

"We are appalled at this attack on one of the essential tenets of our local democracy and a fundamental democratic mechanism: majority rule," the group says in the letter. “We are fearful of the real substantive risks this change would pose for our city. The principle of majority rule has always been and must continue to be how council conducts the public's business.”

Echoing the sentiment of many passionate voices in recent weeks, the group said the province is “revealing its agenda” with recent moves like the new mayoral powers, a proposal to build on Greenbelt land, and an elimination of rules that support affordable communities. 

"It is a disturbing future," they write. “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.”

But Tory has previously said that he supports the changes to mayoral power if it means getting housing built as quickly as possible, but that he’ll use the powers only when necessary. 

Meanwhile, freshly elected Toronto city councillors Alejandra Bravo, Ausma Malik, and Jamaal Myers, as well as municipal representative Josh Matlow have also been vocal in their disapproval of Bill 39. Those in opposition to the bill are urged to sign an online petition. We have a feeling this isn't the last of this issue we'll hear of for a while...

Urban Living