Ontario's strong-mayor legislation has passed third reading and is set to become law.
Bill 3 will give sweeping new powers to the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa with the goal of speeding up approving housing projects. Critics say the bill is an undemocratic overreach, and could in fact politicize and slow down the process by turning neutral city staff into lackeys of the mayor.
During debate on Wednesday, NDP MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam rattled off a list of late Toronto mayor Rob Ford's greatest hits and asked if the PCs would be okay with someone like that having expanded powers.
"What happens when your mayor is the kind of person who says, 'If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you won’t get AIDS probably'?" they said in a speech during which they had to withdraw comments more than once. "What happens when your mayor calls women reporters 'bitches?'"
Wong-Tam said Premier Doug Ford hasn't gotten over his 2014 mayoral loss and should get a therapist instead of meddling in municipal affairs
"The counsel I would suggest that the premier seek to process his residual anger is that from a therapist and not legislative counsel," they said.
PC MPP John Yakabuski noted that council will have a two-thirds veto on strong-mayor decisions.
"If the mayor — past, present, future; whatever you’re talking about, I’m not sure — would be doing something that the rest of council found so disagreeable or reprehensible, they would need to have only two-thirds — and you say you have faith in that council," he said.
The Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act will allow the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to veto council decisions, create the city's budget, hire and fire senior staff, and create and reorganize key departments, committees and boards. Those powers are currently shared by councils.
Ford has said he'd like to expand the powers to more cities, eventually.
While some mayors, like Toronto's John Tory, are all for the new powers, others have said it won't do much to speed up housing approvals. Many have noted that Tory hasn't lost a significant vote on council during his eight years in power.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said on Tuesday the new powers will "allow the mayors of these two cities to better organize city hall," but added that "there is still a lot of room to debate the budget on the council floor, something that I think we all feel is a very positive step."
Proponents have pointed to housing approvals getting tangled up by NIMBY constituents, as well as city boards that over-use heritage rules to prevent densification.
The government has pledged to build 1.5 million homes over the next decade. To do so it will need to dramatically increase housing starts from its already record-high previous year.
But so far it hasn't moved on more muscular recommendations, such as its Housing Affordability Task Force's calls for provincewide as-of-right zoning, increased density requirements and design rules.
NDP municipal affairs critic Jeff Burch on Tuesday argued on the government is ignoring the task force's calls "in favour of a bill that does nothing to promote more housing." He said he hopes the government consults with municipalities before expanding the bill to more cities.
Ontario's municipal elections will be held on Oct. 24. The government has promised the new powers will be in place on Nov. 15 — the first day of the new council term.