Ontario Empowering Ottawa and Toronto Mayors to Build Housing Faster


Mayor Jim Watson does not want the City of Ottawa to be included in the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act

TORONTO, August 11, 2022 ― On Wednesday, the Ontario government introduced legislation that would give the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa more responsibility to deliver on shared provincial-municipal priorities, including building 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years.

If passed, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, would give the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa the ability to move priority projects forward and get more homes built faster. Proposed changes include:

  • hiring the Chief Administrative Officer and municipal department heads, and create and re-organize departments
  • appointing chairs/vice-chairs for identified committees and local boards, and establish new identified committees
  • bringing matters for council consideration related to provincial priorities
  • vetoing bylaws approved by council if they relate to matters of provincial priority
  • proposing the municipal budget

The province says this legislation is an important tool to get more homes built faster, and is one of a number of initiatives being taken by the Ontario government to address the housing shortage.

“The reality is over one third of Ontario’s growth over the next decade is expected to happen in Toronto and Ottawa, and too many families are already struggling with housing and the rising cost of living. We need to support efficient local decision-making to help cut through red tape and speed up development timelines,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “While there is no silver bullet to addressing the housing crisis, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act is another step in the right direction to provide more tools to municipal leaders to deliver on their platform commitments to constituents. The province is actively deepening our cooperation on all fronts across all municipalities to get 1.5 million homes built over the next 10 years.”

Although Toronto Mayor John Tory, who is determined to get more housing built in Toronto, released a statement yesterday saying he supports the proposal, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson (who is not up for re-election) does not.

Mayor Jim Watson is now Ottawa's longest serving mayor
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson does not support the Ontario governments Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act

“I don’t quite understand how giving me more powers is going to help build more houses,” said Watson.

“I would hope they just remove Ottawa [from the legislation] altogether, and if they don’t, I think the candidates for mayor should commit to not using that power during their term of council,” Watson said.

Ottawa’s mayor said the proposed Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act would “marginalize” the roles and responsibilities of city councillors.

Several Ottawa city councillors also expressed their concerns, including Councillor Jeff Leiper of Kitchissippi who called the move “fundamentally anti-democratic,” and Councillor Keith Egli, who represents Knoxdale-Merivale.

“If you want to pilot it in Toronto … see if it works, and leave Ottawa out of it until there can be a real discussion around whether it works, and whether the citizens of Ottawa want it,” said Egli,.

“If you want to pilot it in Toronto … see if it works, and leave Ottawa out of it until there can be a real discussion around whether it works, and whether the citizens of Ottawa want it,” he said.

These proposed measures would allow council to have the ability to propose amendments to the municipal budget. Council would also be able to override the mayor’s veto of any budget amendments and by-laws related to provincial priorities with a two-thirds majority vote.

If passed, the proposed changes are intended to take effect on November 15, 2022 — the start of the new municipal council term.

To help communities across Ontario build more attainable homes, Ontario is also launching the Housing Supply Action Plan Implementation Team (HSAPIT). HSAPIT will provide advice on market housing initiatives, including building on the vision from the Housing Affordability Task Force, More Homes for Everyone and other government consultations. The government intends to appoint Drew Dilkens, Mayor of the City of Windsor, as Chair and Cheryl Fort, Mayor of the Township of Hornepayne, as the Vice Chair. The other Team members will be selected in the coming weeks, with the first meeting scheduled for early fall.

Ontario is committed to supporting municipalities and remains focused on improving planning policies and cutting red tape to get homes built faster. The government is leading by example, and encourages other government partners to join us by taking concrete steps to help all Ontarians find a home that meets their needs.

Quick Facts

  • Mayoral powers to veto by-laws approved by council and bring items for council consideration would only apply for matters relating to provincial priorities, which will be set out in regulations. For example, building 1.5 million new residential units by 2033, or the construction and maintenance of infrastructure that supports new housing, including transit, roads, and utilities.
  • Thirty-five per cent of Ontario’s projected growth to 2031 is expected to happen in Toronto and Ottawa. Addressing housing supply issues in these communities is critical.
  • After the success of More Homes, More Choice and More Homes for Everyone, Ontario has committed to creating a housing supply action plan every year over four years, starting in 2022-23.

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