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Municipal Governance Backgrounder

Backgrounder August 17, 2023

The following backgrounder provides more detailed information on Municipal Governance:

AMO Position

  • Local governments are a cornerstone of our democratic system: strong, effective and close to the people.
  • The collaborative nature of municipal government has long been a strength of our system.
  • While AMO has concerns with some “strong-mayor” powers – namely those that impact majority rule and public administration – these tools can help municipalities to meet priorities, such as housing.  Municipalities can be counted on to exercise these powers responsibly.
  • Strengthening municipal codes of conduct will enhance local government integrity and public respect.

Overview

Strong Mayor

  • The Government of Ontario has made significant changes to the municipal government framework, powers and processes in the last few years.
  • The special powers and duties for heads of council are voluntary and subject to certain exceptions. They include powers such as:
    • Creating council committees and appointing chairs and vice-chairs
    • Hiring and firing the CAO
    • Hiring the heads of certain departments and reorganizing administrative structures
    • Proposing the municipal budget for council approval, with veto powers that require a 2/3 council vote to override
    • Vetoing certain by-laws that the head of council believes may interfere with provincial priorities
    • Bringing forward items for council consideration that could advance a provincial priority
  • In some circumstances, these powers can be a helpful tool to support progress on priorities such as increasing housing supply.
  • AMO has highlighted concerns with two elements of the strong-mayor framework:
    • Majority Rule: Changes to the Municipal Act that enable mayors to make law with the support of just one third of Council runs counter to fundamental democratic principles.
    • Public Administration: Powers that enable the head of Council to hire and fire the heads of departments and reorganize municipal administration are at odds with good corporate governance practice. 
  • These elements are now law, and municipalities can be counted on to use these powers responsibly and in the public interest.

Municipal Codes of Conduct

  • All Ontarians expect to work in a safe and respectful environment. Municipal Codes of Conduct are important tools to regulate the respectful behaviour that all council members agree to when they take office
  • Municipal governments have limited ability to enforce these Codes in line with members’ and the public’s expectations. 
  • AMO has called on the government to table and pass legislation that reflects the following recommendations:
    • Codes of Conduct should be updated to include workplace safety and harassment policies.
    • Codes of Conduct should have an escalating enforcement mechanism through administrative monetary penalties that recognize local circumstances.
    • Integrity Commissioners should have better, standardized training to improve consistency of decisions across the province.
    • In the most egregious cases, such as harassment or assault, municipalities should be able to apply to a judge to remove a sitting member, if recommended by an Integrity Commissioner.
    • A member removed under this process should be unable to sit in another election during the term of office removed and the subsequent term.

Key facts

  • Strong-mayor powers were extended to 28 of Ontario’s fastest growing communities in July 2023.
  • More than 80 municipalities and other municipal organizations, such as the Ontario Big City Mayors, have supported AMO’s recommended changes to enhance Municipal Codes of Conduct. 

Other resources and reports

 

For more information, contact: Brian Lambie, AMO Media Contact, 416-729-5425, lambie@redbrick.ca  

 

 

Contact:

Brian Lambie
AMO Media Contact