As for new strong powers, Oakville mayor says ‘there’s no I in team’


Published June 19, 2023 at 1:27 pm

Mayor Rob Burton is letting past words speak for him when it comes to his thoughts on the province granting “strong mayor” powers to Oakville.

Burton has yet to make an official comment on his new powers after Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark announced Thursday (June 15) that Burton and the mayors of 25 other cities and towns would be given new the powers as of July 1.

The legislation gives the mayor veto powers over bylaws that conflict with provincial priorities such as building housing.

Oakville council can still override a decision by the mayor with a two-thirds vote.

Burton made his thoughts clear on strong mayor powers back at a meeting on Jan. 30, 2023 when he joined Town Council in a unanimous vote on a motion to oppose the legislation that was then granted to the mayor of the cities of Toronto and Ottawa.

Burton say he has served four terms consecutively and with more than 20 different councillors for those 16 years or so, the diversity of opinions and experiences have made for strong councils in a system that is properly called the weak mayor, weak council system.

“There is no ‘I’ in team and there’s no possible way we can enjoy the successions and accomplishments in Oakville and Halton that we have achieved without approaching our work as ‘Team Oakville,’” he said. “Our strong councils have done a lot for an officially weak council, weak mayor system.”

Burton pointed to how council has stopped an “inappropriate” gas plant and conserved the Glen Abbey culture heritage landscape. How they prioritized growing the town’s tree canopy and have made “great progress” towards their 40 per cent goal by 2057, the 200 anniversary of our town.

He also pointed out, according to the Institute of Municipal Finance And Government at the Monk School of the University of Toronto, that council has ensured the town has the healthiest finances and fiscal reserves in Canada.

That’s not my boast, that’s theirs,” said Burton.

Oakville, the mayor said, has several challenges ahead such as dealing with three “layers” of government to address the housing crisis, accommodating historic levels of immigration that the federal government has announced and continuing to address the climate change emergency.

This while trying to ensure taxes remain below inflation while also trying to make sure the services and infrastructure residents want continues.

“I will continue to serve as a mayor that wants to be known for collaboration and team work,” said Burton on Jan. 30. “There is simply no other way to accomplish anything for our residents. I am guided by an old proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.’ I have striven that we go together.”

He added that he’s always remembered that no matter what the disagreement of the day might be, there will always be a new issue and a new day and council may want to maintain good relations so they can reason together to solve whatever obstacle reaches them.

“Together, we can deliver for Oakville as a team, as ‘Team Oakville,’” he said. “So, I’ll support this.”

Ward 1 Regional and Town Councillor Sean O’Meara made his feelings clear on the province’s announcement last week that granted the strong mayor powers.

“It’s great news our Council voted unanimously against this anti-democratic move,” O’Meara said on Twitter on Thursday. “Our mayor was extremely vocal against it.”

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