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OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa is condemning the Ford government’s plan to set up legislation that would weaken local democracies and give mayors in Ottawa and Toronto “US-style strong-mayor powers.” Though not entirely clear what this would entail, media reports have noted that these powers could include the ability to override councillor decisions on certain issues and have significant control over the city budget. Horizon Ottawa is also demanding that all mayoral candidates join them in condemning the move by Ford.
“This is nothing more than an attack on our local democracy,” said Sam Hersh, a Board Member of Horizon Ottawa. “This has nothing to do with improving city governance and everything to do with taking power away from cities. We call on all Ottawa mayoral and council candidates to oppose this move.”
This is not the first time Ford has launched a full-scale attack on municipal governments. During the 2018 municipal election, Ford decided to cut Toronto City Council in half, leaving many without proper representation and unleashing a chaotic council race. Many see this move as a pattern of Ford’s quest to weaken the power of city councils.
Horizon Ottawa says that the best way to improve local governance is not to consolidate power but rather to download more decision-making power onto municipalities through something like a city charter. A city charter, advocated by many across Canada and the world, would assign greater autonomy allowing Ottawa new sources of revenue and protection from undue provincial interference in local governance.
“After a decade of a Jim Watson mayoralty, Ottawans know what it’s like for power to be concentrated in the mayor’s office and the dysfunction that follows it” said Hersh. “What we need to do instead is to strengthen our democracy and empower ward councillors and our cities; a city charter, for example, could do that.”
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