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City Council against Strong Mayor

By CJ Goater Sep 19, 2023 | 1:04 PM

(Adam Riley/Acadia Broadcasting Files)

Strong Mayor powers appear to be headed to Thunder Bay after Mayor Ken Boshcoff brought a memorandum to city council asking for their support.

Strong Mayor powers allow the mayor to make decisions about council committees and local boards. It gives the mayor the ability to change the responsibilities and duties of city administration, and the ability to appoint or dismiss city managers and division heads as well.

The duty to present the city budget is also included, but the mayor can waive the right to do so which essentially defers the power back to city council, or the duty to create the budget could be assigned to city administration.

The mayor would also gain veto powers when provincial priorities are involved which at this moment would be housing and infrastructure for housing.

Before the council’s discussion began, City Clerk Krista Power made sure to explain the situation to council.

“Strong Mayor powers are currently tied to housing targets. Thunder Bay has been assigned a target of 2,200 homes by 2031. There is also a requirement for the city to set forward a housing pledge, which is the action plan on how the housing target will be achieved. This report is currently being prepared by administration to come forward on October 23rd. It is important to note that the province has provided two different dates on these matters. October 15 for the mayor’s to commit to the housing target in writing, and December 15 for the housing pledge which is defined by the ministry as, strategies and actions the city will take to achieve that target.”

By committing to the housing target Mayor Ken Boshcoff would receive Strong Mayor powers.

Councillor Dominic Pasqualino began council’s conversation by stating he was not in favour of Strong Mayor powers but he also highlighted a key clarification which is that Mayor Boshcoff does not require council’s support. “Unfortunately my say on this matter will not directly affect the outcome of this decision because even if there was a majority vote against this legislation by city council, the mayor can completely disregard the decision of the duly elected city councillors and still decide on his own to become a strong mayor,” said Pasqualino.

He added that it would change how council functions noting the current process although imperfect is democratic. Pasqualino was not the only councillor to mention their concerns about the effect of this decision on democracy. Councillor Andrew Foulds also asked what the price of democracy is in reference to Building Faster Fund and Strong Mayor powers, as he also declined to provide support to Mayor Boshcoff.

There was extensive discussion about specific numbers, but ultimately City Manager Norm Gale highlighted the fact that it is too early for numbers and administration is still compiling information.

City Solicitor Patty Robinet also highlighted that unless provincial legislation changes, if Mayor Boshcoff commits to Strong Mayor powers it will be here to stay.

Over the coming weeks, more details are expected to be delivered to council.