The Strong Mayors Act, and its (potentially) unique impact on the 2022 Ontario Municipal Elections in Toronto and Ottawa
Ontario’s municipal elections will be taking place on Monday, October 24, 2022. Members elected to municipal council following October 24 will be the first to potentially utilize the new powers to be granted to certain municipalities under Bill 3, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022 (the “Strong Mayors Act”).
This is one of several election law primers intended to convey some important considerations with regard to the upcoming municipal elections. It is intended as general guidance only. If you have any specific questions or concerns, please contact Awanish Sinha or Amanda D. Iarusso of our firm’s Public Sector group, or Daniel Angelucci of our firm’s Municipal Planning group. We would be pleased to assist you.
Uniquely Important Elections in Toronto and Ottawa
The Strong Mayors Act grants an expanded range of powers to the mayor of the City of Toronto, as well as mayors of other municipalities prescribed by regulation by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (which, as of October 3, 2022, only includes the City of Ottawa). The Strong Mayors Act received Royal Assent on September 8, 2022, and the proposed changes are scheduled to take effect on November 15, 2022, being the start of the new municipal council term.
The Strong Mayors Act will concentrate various powers into the above mayoral offices, which were formerly dispersed across various democratic actors and municipal officers. Through amendments to the City of Toronto Act and the Municipal Act, the Strong Mayors Act introduces a broad range of mechanisms to achieve its purported purpose of building 1.5 million new homes over the next decade.
Among other things, the Strong Mayors Act will empower the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to:
- exercise greater control over organizational matters, including executive hiring in municipal departments;
- appoint chairs and vice-chairs for certain committees and local boards, create new committees, as well as assign certain functions to committees;
- bring certain matters to council for consideration;
- propose and adopt the municipal budget; and,
- veto by-laws that are approved by council and which may interfere with matters of “provincial priority” (the “Veto Power”).
The Veto Power provides the mayors of the prescribed municipalities the authority to disallow the passing of a by-law by municipal council. The practical effect of the Veto Power would be to deem that the by-law was never passed by municipal council, such that the impugned by-law would be of no force or effect.
Under the framework set out in the Strong Mayors Act, there are important limitations to the Veto Power. The Veto Power may only be used:
(a) if the Lieutenant Governor in Council prescribes by regulation the “provincial priorities” that the new mayoral powers are intended to advance;
(b) against by-laws enacted by municipal council under either the Planning Act, the City of Toronto Act, the Municipal Act, or any other Acts prescribed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing;
(c) if the mayor of the prescribed municipality is of the opinion that all or part of the by-law, “could potentially interfere with a prescribed provincial priority”;
(d) if the mayor of the prescribed municipality gives notice of their intent to utilize the Veto Power within two days after municipal council voted in favour of the by-law; and,
(e) if the mayor of the prescribed municipality provides to the municipal clerk, on the day they intend to utilize the Veto Power, a written document setting out the reasons for the veto.
Notwithstanding this, if the Veto Power is utilized in accordance with the above, municipal council may still override the mayor’s use of the Veto Power if a two-thirds majority vote is passed (which represents 18 of 26 members in the City of Toronto, inclusive of the mayor, and 16 of 24 members in the City of Ottawa, inclusive of the mayor).
As stated previously, the scope of the Veto Power can expand over time if the Lieutenant Governor in Council prescribes by regulation additional provincial priorities or any additional Acts to which the Veto Power could apply against. As of October 3, 2022, the following matters have been proposed as provincial priorities:
- building 1.5 million new residential units by 2031; and,
- the construction and maintenance of infrastructure to support accelerated supply and availability of housing including, but not limited to, transit, roads, utilities, and servicing.
Lastly, no additional municipalities beyond the City of Ottawa were included in the proposed regulations, meaning that, for the time being, the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa are the only two persons that can utilize the Veto Power.
The Bottom Line
The significant changes introduced through the Strong Mayors Act give those with interests at the municipal level greater incentives to follow and possibly participate in the electoral process. Nonetheless, individuals and corporations should be cognizant of the potential limits on their own involvement.
If you or others in your organization will engage in the political process in the upcoming municipal elections in Ontario, take the time to ensure that your internal policies and procedures comply with the Municipal Elections Act.
Have questions about working with municipal governments and government agencies? The experts at McCarthy Tétrault LLP can help. Contact Awanish Sinha or Amanda D. Iarusso of our firm’s Public Sector group, or Daniel Angelucci of our firm’s Municipal Planning group if you have any questions or for assistance.
 Bill 3, An Act to amend various statutes with respect to special powers and duties of heads of council, 1st Sess, 43rd Leg, Ontario, 2022 (assented to 8 September 2022).
 Government of Ontario, Regulatory Registry, “Proposed Minister's Regulations to help bring the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022 into effect.” (3 October 2022), online: https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=42668&language=en.
 Municipal Affairs and Housing, News Release, “Ontario Empowering Mayors to Build Housing Faster” (10 August 2022), online: https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1002235/ontario-empowering-mayors-to-build-housing-faster.
 Government of Ontario, Regulatory Registry, “Proposed regulations to prescribe provincial priorities related to the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022” (3 October 2022), online: https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=42667&language=en.
Discover more by reading our other articles on the Ontario Municipal Elections 2022: