Her increased power won’t change Burlington priorities, mayor says
Published June 19, 2023 at 5:01 pm
Despite being granted more powers, Burlington’s mayor said she still intends to work collaboratively with members of City council.
In a released statement, Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said that her newfound authority is not going to change the way decisions are made, but she stopped short of indicating that the strong mayor powers will never be invoked.
“I believe the best decisions are made in collaboration with council, City staff and the community – and that will not change. Burlington Council is already very cohesive and collaborative, with more than 90 per cent of our votes being unanimous, and the balance of votes with strong consensus around options,” the statement reads.
On Friday the Ontario government granted increased powers to several mayors across the province in a move largely seen to help push through initiatives on housing, transit and infrasture.
Based on the model of several U.S. cities, the so-called strong mayor will have more control over budgets, hire senior staff, create committees and be able to push through some bylaws without the majority support of council. The mayor will also be able to turn down decisions that are not in line with Provincial priorities. However, council will also have some veto power over the mayor on certain issues.
Still, Meed Ward, like many other mayors who have been granted additional powers, is apprehensive about embracing the new role. Other mayors have suggested they don’t want to be in a position where they overturn democratically made decisions or appear to be doing the bidding of Queen’s Park.
As well, the priorities of the Province may run counter to those of the City and the mayor, especially when it comes to where housing is built. Meed Ward has already stated that Burlington wants to keep housing away from the greenbelt, parkland, golf courses, farms and other rural areas.
Meed Ward said she, as well as the other mayors, will have to decide what’s best for their communities when trying to achieve Provincial priorities.
“These tools are not something I have requested,” Meed Ward says in her statement. “My focus has always been on building a strong city and a strong collaborative council.”
She pointed to the creation of the deputy mayor portfolios — where different councillors have been given more responsibility for specific files and concerns — as proof of the collaborative and made-in-Burlington approach to decision-making.
“Burlington council works well together, and I know we will continue to do so,” she said.
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