Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath has used strong mayor powers 16 times

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Strong mayor powers were extended to Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath in July of 2023. Photo Credit: Facebook/Andrea Horwath


Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath has used strong mayor powers 16 times since they were granted by the Government of Ontario on July 1, 2023.

Strong mayor powers were first exclusively extended to Toronto and Ottawa in the fall of 2022. But they were then expanded to an additional 26 municipalities, including Hamilton, in July of 2023.

The most significant way Horwath used the strong mayor powers in 2023 was for the appointment of a new City Manager for the municipality on Dec. 4.

Horwath appointed Marnie Cluckie as the next City Manager after the retirement of Janette Smith.

However, in making the appointment, Horwath noted that the selection of the City Manager is simply the “default responsibility of the Mayor” under the strong mayor powers.

The City’s press release also noted that an external search firm and an interview panel made up of Horwath, six members of Council and two members of the public guided the appointment process.

The other major mayoral decision made by Horwath under the strong mayor powers was providing a directive to city staff to prepare the 2024 budget for presentation to City Council.

Horwath issued that directive on Aug. 31, 2023. She asked staff to prepare the 2024 budget and gave them six directions to follow.

Among those directives, Horwath asked finance staff to present a budget that “reduces the burden on residential property taxes.”

Under the strong mayor powers, Horwath also has the responsibility of giving written approval of specific by-laws.

Horwath has used the strong mayor powers to approve by-laws on nine separate occasions.

It should be noted that on all occasions the by-laws were already passed by City Council before being approved by the mayor. Using strong mayor powers in these cases sped up their passage. 

Horwath also has the responsibility under the strong mayor powers to appoint various chairs and vice-chairs for committees.

On four occasions, Horwath opted to delegate those appointments to Council.

However, on one occasion, Horwath chose to directly appoint a chair and vice-chair herself.

For the West Harbour Development Sub-Committee, Horwath appointed Councillor Mike Spadafora (Ward 14 – West Mountain) as the chair of the sub-committee and appointed herself as the vice-chair.

All the municipalities granted the strong mayor powers are “single- or lower-tier municipalities with a population over 100,000, or growing to 100,000 by 2031, and have submitted a housing pledge to the province.”

When announcing the extension of the powers, provincial officials said that the strong mayor powers would help municipalities to “cut red tape” and “speed up the delivery of key shared municipal-provincial priorities such as housing, transit and infrastructure in their municipalities.”

When the City of Hamilton was first granted the strong mayor powers, Horwath refused to say whether she would use them, commenting that “working collaboratively yields the best results.”

During the 2022 Hamilton mayoral debate, Horwath called the strong mayor powers “not necessary” and even “dangerous.”

The powers given to strong mayors include having the ability to appoint the municipality’s chief administrative officer, hiring certain municipal department heads, creating committees of council and appointing chairs and vice-chairs, proposing the municipal budget, vetoing certain by-laws, and bringing forward specific matters for council consideration if it advances a provincial priority.

The by-law powers are specific to building new homes, the construction and maintenance of infrastructure, and supporting existing housing developments.

There are also checks and balances in place. For example, councils can override a mayor’s veto of by-laws or budget amendments with a two-thirds majority vote.


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