Editor’s POV

By Wes Smiderle

Stronger mayor, weaker city?

A common complaint among some city-watchers during the last term of council was Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s cultivation of a coalition of councillors, what some referred to as his “club”. Their consistent support ensured the passage of motions he favoured.

Anyone outside the coalition had a harder time making things happen.

Under the recently-enacted “strong mayor” legislation, the new mayor might not even have to bother forming a coalition.

The looming election of a new mayor with “stronger” powers is one of several factors that ought to galvanize voters Monday October 24 (see Manor Park Community Association President Natalie Belovic’s rallying cry, “When voting in this municipal election, think big”).

The blend of mayor and councillors and school board trustees and the decisions they make go a long way toward determining the fabric of a city (see profiles and priorities of most of the candidates running for city councillor and trustee in the Rideau-Vanier and Rideau-Rockcliffe wards).

Safety is one example. When people have concerns, they naturally turn to their councillor (see “Cyclists collisions re-kindle safety concerns,” and the mayor’s column, “Improving Road Safety in Ottawa,” and “Safety Council desperately seeking crossing guards”).

Small businesses are another. A healthy small business sector benefits communities in all sorts of ways (see Cecilia Pita’s Etiquette Matters column, “Kindness inspires and ripples across our neighbourhood”).

The strong mayor legislation promises to bolster a mayor’s ability to see through issues reflecting the “priorities” of the provincial government.

Whether the mayor’s new powers come at the expense of an individual councillor’s ability to represent her/his/their ward’s interests remains to be seen.