Yesterday, at a meeting of York Region’s Committee of the Whole, we learn that the lands in King which were removed from the Greenbelt on 21 December 2022 could be home to 15,000 people. At the same time, lands in the Oak Ridges Moraine were redesignated as a “settlement area”.

York Region’s CAO, Bruce Macgregor, tells members:

“Those are preliminary figures associated with the lands identified by the Province to also contain a hospital expansion up here in the Newmarket area – expansion of Southlake hospital. So the surrounding community that is being proposed is under investigation right now by the Province of Ontario. They are soliciting and receiving input from this municipality, the Township of King, and it is expected to be fully sustained and a fully sustainable community as it rolls out. We’ll know more, I think, as the summer approaches. The next step on those lands which we anticipate would be a MZO.” (Minister’s Zoning Order) 

It is an awkward statement from Macgregor who is usually fluent and persuasive and in command of his brief. But, as I listen to him, I get the clear impression he is as much in the dark as the rest of us.

Government by ambush

Ford makes it up as he goes along. He fires from the hip. He doesn’t read his briefings. On most days, he doesn’t take questions addressed to him in the Legislature. He prefers to pass them on to colleagues to answer on his behalf. Legislation is routinely enacted before the end of the consultation period. Increasingly, we see Government by fiat.

Today we are told that the Ford Government is giving “strong mayor” powers to an additional 26 municipalities as from 1 July 2023, but not Newmarket which is below the 100,000 population threshold.

So-called “strong mayors” can push through policies even when a majority of their own council opposes them. The mayor’s decision can only be vetoed if two-thirds of the council objects.

Tall Order

Ford wants to accelerate the housing program, building 1.5 million new homes by 2031. This is a very tall order. But, to be clear, the issue is not about the need for more housing but where the houses are to be built. He wants to build on open countryside with municipalities servicing new developments, even if it means throwing their Official Plans – and their priorities - out of the window.

Ford does not have a mandate to do this.

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Ford is putting developers in the driving seat and the financial implications for the Region and for taxpayers are considerable. The Regional Treasurer's presentation, is here. And the debate is here.

On Wednesday (14 June 2023) Markham Mayor, Frank Scarpitti, bizarrely and out of the blue, calls for the abolition of York Region’s nine lower tier municipalities and the creation of a “York Megacity”. His proposal is ridiculed by Ford.

Update on 20 June 2023: from the Toronto Star: Strong Mayor powers are bad for local democracy.

Update on 22 June 2023 from the Toronto Star: "Strong Mayor" powers a factor in voting"