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Strong mayor powers extended to Kingston, Ont.

Ontario's strong mayor powers are being expanded to 26 municipalities across the province, including Kingston.

The new legislative tool gives mayors the ability to enact legislation without the majority of votes from council.

In the announcement Friday, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark says it is hoped cities can fast-track projects like building more homes.

"By adopting ambitious and absolutely necessary housing pledges, these 26 municipalities have demonstrated they understand the importance of that target, and we are ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed," Clark said.

"We welcome housing pledges from other municipalities to help reach our goal of 1.5 million homes by 2031."

Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Barrie, Vaughan and Brampton are among the cities receiving these new strong mayor powers. 

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson says he does not plan to change his approach to working with council, but won’t rule out using the new tools.

"Anyone who has worked with me knows, I am not going to all of a sudden start wielding this tool but I am also not going to rule it out if there were situations in the future that may require considering it," Paterson said in a statement. "I think that’s just a practical and measured approach. However, more importantly we have a tremendous council, they are really committed to solving our housing crisis and working together and I look forward to continuing that."

If used, two thirds of the council would be needed to override any use of the strong mayor powers.

Speaking with CTV News Ottawa, Sydenham Coun. Conny Glen said she could not support the use of the powers.

"This to me is anti-democratic," Glen says. "I understand that building and planning are complex issues. It’s frustrating to get through that process, but to give one individual in your city that much power? It flies in the face of democratic principles."

She feels that Kingston council has been successful at pushing through legislation.

"We’re working around that horseshoe," she says. "I don’t want to see that balance get upset."

Ottawa’s Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has pledged not to use the strong mayor powers.

Every council member in Kingston that CTV News Ottawa spoke to on Friday said they have faith it won’t be used here.

Kingscourt-Rideau Coun. Brandon Tozzo took aim at the Ontario government's legislation.

"I think it’s just disappointment and the feeling that this is unnecessary," Tozzo says. "Like this strong mayor policy doesn’t provide more money for housing. This strong mayor policy does not provide more money for homelessness. This strong mayor policy doesn’t help us address any climate change issues.

"It is a hammer for a series of nails that doesn’t exist. It is giving the mayor potentially more power, and it isn’t giving us any more tools and resources."

Coun. Vincent Cianni raised concerns that the legislation can also be applied to things like hiring and firing department heads.

"With this council, I’m not worried about it," he explains. "But future council, you never know what could happen."

Coun. Jimmy Hassan says he can see why it would be appealing in some instances, but does not feel the legislation applies to Kingston.

"Particularly for Kingston, I’m unable to understand why we need more power to the mayor. We have a very collaborative, very progressive council,” he explains. 

The new powers come into effect July 1. Top Stories

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