‘Consensus-building and collaboration:’ Whitby Mayor promises teamwork despite new Strong Mayor powers

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Published June 16, 2023 at 5:16 pm

Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy has pledged to keep a focus on building a co-operative team in the town’s council chamber despite new powers to make more forecful decisions.

The Ontario Government gave additional budgetary and development approval powers to the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa last fall. The goal of these powers, according to Housing Minister Steve Clark, is to expedite housing development. Decisions mayors make with new powers can only be overridden by a two-thirds majority of council.

The opposition NDP have claimed differently calling the powers “an agenda that benefits Ford’s friends and provides no actual solutions for Ontarians who are suffering” while calling for rent control, an end to renovictions and exclusionary zoning and other measures.

Today, June 16, Ontario expanded these powers to 26 more municipalities including all of south Durham; Ajax, Clarington, Oshawa, Pickering and Whitby.

However, just a few hours later Roy said, “Consensus-building and collaboration will continue to be my focus. One of my top priorities for this term of office is to bring council together as a team. I believe strongly that councillors must be able to represent the interests of their constituents and that the principle of majority rule is how council should conduct the public’s business.”

Building a better working team out of town council has long been a priority for Roy who inherited a troubled council. The last term under former Mayor Don Mitchell was deeply divided from the start. By the end, controversy had marred the council chamber as some councillors insulted and berated others. Allegations were additionally made against Mitchell regarding sexual misconduct, which he denied.

However, council vetoed any consequence or extended investigations into its members or Mitchell in a couple of tight votes. Roy vowed early in her campaign that such incidents would not repeat themselves under her leadership and has strived to unite the council.

She also noted the town has highly skilled staff who council relies on for advice and said there are no plans to change that.

Roy also stressed all municipalities should embrace to push to expand housing. Whitby has committed to 18,000 new units by 2030 and all communities with these new mayoral powers have made similar pledges. The push for more housing comes with an expected doubling of the Durham Region population from 697,000 to 1.3 million by 2051.

“I will be cautious and respectful when it comes to these new powers, aiming to strike a balance between the Town of Whitby’s responsibility to deliver on the Province’s priorities and the need to safeguard democracy at the local level,” Roy said

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