Chatham-Kent is stuck with Strong Mayor Powers after all.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michael Duben told Council Monday night the province has answered their questions about whether the municipality can still get housing funding for meeting targets if the powers are declined and said the mayor has the provincially legislated powers regardless.
Duben said the powers are legislated and municipalities don't have a choice but to accept them.
He said a report will be coming to Council hopefully before the end of the year to delegate the Strong Mayor Powers to either Council or the CAO.
Previous story below from September 26, 2023:
The mayor of Chatham-Kent has told his Council that he will decline Strong Mayor Powers offered by the province.
Mayor Darrin Canniff said he would submit his pledge to accept the province's housing targets by mid-October, but would decline the Strong Mayor Powers by the December 15, 2023 deadline.
Strong mayor powers include allowing mayors to propose housing-related bylaws and pass them with the support of one-third of councillors, as well as override council approval of certain bylaws and prepare their city's budget, instead of council.
The declaration by Canniff came at Monday night's Council meeting after some councillors raised concerns about the special mayor powers given by the province deteriorating democracy, adding they did not have concerns about Mayor Canniff using them improperly.
"We work well as a Council, the democracy, those types of things. I didn't see a place for it in Chatham-Kent, I really didn't. So, to me it's a pretty easy decision to say no to those powers," the mayor said.
Ultimately, it's the mayor's decision to make without Council approval, but Canniff assured Council he wouldn't make a unilateral decision.
Ward 5 Councillor Carmen McGregor said she was not willing to give up Council's decision-making power to the province just to get a few houses.
"I'm not sure I'm willing to sell my soul for the price of a house or two and lose my democratic rights as a councillor and be able to represent my community," said McGregor.
Ward 2 Councillor Ryan Doyle said the special powers for the mayor gave him a bad feeling.
Ward 4 Councillor Rhonda Jubenville called the Strong Mayor Powers an erosion of democracy and anti-democratic.
"I'm against giving such great powers to one individual no matter who that person may be, under any reasoning. It is anti-democratic and leads us down a slippery slope," said Jubenville.
Some councillors noted the Strong Mayor Powers came under the guise of provincial housing targets and housing funding, but Chatham-Kent's General Manager of Community Development Bruce McAllister told Council that the municipality is already meeting those targets set by the province and the municipality should be able to access those funds.
Mayor Canniff said if the province didn't accept the municipality's position on the Strong Mayor Powers, then the issue would return to Council for a vote.