Councillor, Ward 1 Aurora

Strong and Wrong – Mayoral Powers Explained


If you want to go fast – go alone. If you want to go far – go together!

A brief recap…

Strong Mayor Powers were first Awarded to large cities like Ottawa and Toronto. However, on July 1, 2023, these powers were expanded to 26 large and fast-growing communities with a population of over 100,000 residents.  Aurora was not among them.

In retrospect, Mayor Mrakas stated during the all-candidates meeting hosted by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, before the 2022 Municipal election, and quoted on page 12 in the October 20, 2022 edition of The Auroran as saying, that Strong Mayor Powers were:

“not necessary and not needed”. “It’s kind of a moot point discussing Aurora and I don’t expect [it] to ever come to Aurora…and I am actually kind of thankful for that,” said Mayor Mrakas.

Again, in the August 23rd 2023 edition of Newmarket Today, and before the announcement at the AMO conference that on November 1, 2023, Aurora and other smaller municipalities would be granted Strong Mayor Powers, Mayor Mrakas is quoted as saying:

“There could be certain situations that arise in the future where strong mayor powers could be useful, especially when it comes to accelerating housing,” but overall, “I don’t think it’s a tool we necessarily need.”

And in the August 24, 2023 edition of The Auroran, Mayor Mrakas reiterated:

“I don’t think [Strong Mayor powers are] a tool we necessarily need… I’m committed to working with my Council colleagues….”

Yet, on September 15th, 2023 before the approval of our Provincial Housing Pledge at Council, the Mayor notified the Council that he had signed the Provincial Housing Pledge and received confirmation of the receipt of that pledge and the award of Strong Mayor Powers by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

In summary, we have changed from a system where the majority of the Council makes decisions to a system where one person, the Mayor, makes the decisions, with the occasional support of a minority of the Council.

A system that completely disrespects the residents of Aurora and is in violation of the ‘majority rules’ principle of every western democracy.

What are these Powers?

On November 28th, 2023, the Town Clerk prepared a Report (page 138) after numerous questions were asked about the impact of these powers on your local governance and procedures and here are excerpts from that Report:

  • Strong Mayor Powers include unilateral authority regarding the administrative and political structure of the Town.

This means that the Mayor now establishes Committees, assigns their functions, and assigns Chairs and Vice Chairs to official Town Committees.  This includes the Budget Committee, and more recently a Motion to dissolve the General Committee structure where Reports and Motions are first debated in public and replaced it with a Committee-of-the-Whole made up of staff Committees who bring items to the Council. The Mayor is the Chair of all the Committees.

It also means that the Mayor may now direct staff to provide advice to the Mayor on Town policies and Programs and direct staff to implement decisions.

Regarding Organizational Structure, the Mayor can now hire or dismiss Department Heads or Executives of the Executive Leadership Team. Only the Chief Building Officer, the Fire Chief, Town Clerk, Deputy Clerk , Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer are protected. Other external authorities like the Integrity Commissioner and Ombudsman are also protected. The Mayor also has the power to appoint the Chief Administrative Officer. This is unprecedented and creates an environment where highly-skilled and experienced Senior Management now have stresses placed on them that could affect their livelihood.

  • Strong Mayor Powers are there to advance “Provincial Priorities” which are:
    • Building 1.5 Million homes by Dec 31, 2031
    • Constructing infrastructure to support housing, including transit, roads, utilities, and servicing.

This includes that the Mayor does not have to abide by procedural By-Law requiring notice to add items to an Agenda and the Council has no authority to refuse or deny consideration of the matter.

This includes bringing forth any By-Laws for consideration if it could ‘potentially’ advance a provincial priority. Under this authority only 1/3 of the Council is required to pass a By-Law brought forward by the Mayor.

  • Veto Powers

The Mayor may veto all or part of a Municipal Act, Planning Act or Development Charge By-Law that in the opinion of the Mayor could ‘potentially’ interfere with a Provincial Priority. The Mayor can pass the By-Law if challenged and has only a 1/3 majority in Council.

  • The Mayor is required to propose the Town’s Budget

The Town’s budget is effectively the Mayor’s budget and if challenged on any item he can veto a majority decision in Council and this then requires only 1/3 majority if the veto is challenged. This was used in the last budgeting process so the Town’s budget is basically the Mayor’s budget as he can include or veto any item he chooses.

  • Mayoral Decisions can be made at any time without the requirement of a Public Meeting.

All Mayoral Decisions must be sent to the Council and posted on the Town’s website which can be seen here.

A brief overview of the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act can be found here

The next issue will identify these Mayoral Decisions and a discussion of why they appear wrong.

Share this post


Recent posts