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Kawartha Lakes among municipalities offered "strong mayor" powers

DAN CEARNS The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The Province of Ontario is extending an offer to the City of Kawartha Lakes. Accept a provincial housing target and be rewarded with new funding and “strong mayor” powers.

At the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference on Monday, August 21st, the Ontario government announced they were launching a new three-year, $1.2 billion program called the Building Faster Fund.

“The Building Faster Fund will provide $400 million in new annual funding for three years to municipalities that are on target to meet provincial housing targets by 2031. Municipalities that reach 80 per cent of their annual target each year will become eligible for funding based on their share of the overall goal of 1.5 million homes. Municipalities that exceed their target will receive a bonus on top of their allocation,” a provincial press release explained.

The municipalities which agree to their provincial housing targets will receive what the province calls “strong mayor” powers. Kawartha Lakes’ housing target is 6,500 new homes by 2031, and has until October 15 to respond in writing.

“With these new measures, we’re supporting municipalities and giving them the tools they need to build more homes faster to tackle the affordability crisis that’s pricing too many people, especially young families and newcomers, out of the dream of home ownership,” read a statement from Premier Doug Ford.

At a council meeting on Tuesday, August 29th, Mayor Doug Elmslie explained what “strong mayor” powers are.

“Strong mayor powers and duties include choosing to appoint the municipality’s Chief Administrative Officer, hiring certain municipal department heads and establishing and reorganizing departments, creating committees of council, assigning their functions and appointing the chairs and vice chairs, proposing the municipal budget which would be subject to council amendments, vetoing certain bylaws if the head of council is of the opinion that all or part of the bylaw could potentially interfere with a provincial priority, [and] bringing forward matters for council consideration if the head of council is of the opinion that considering the manner could advance a provincial priority.”

He added some of these powers, such as a veto or budget proposal could be cancelled out by a two thirds majority vote from members of council.

However, Mayor Elmslie stressed that he doesn’t foresee himself having to use these new abilities.

“I think, while we have our differences on individual issues and items, we are, generally speaking, a collaborative council,” the Mayor said. “I think when we’re dealing with large issues, we may have discussion and we may have arguments, and slight differences of opinion, but when push comes to shove, we work together.”

He noted that the municipality’s planning staff have been asked “to ensure the 6,500 homes are doable.” But he said the municipality would be foolish to not accept the province’s offer, as “we need as much money, and access to as much money as we can get” for infrastructure needs.

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