Toronto election 2022: Penalosa flip-flops on mayor’s strong veto

Toronto mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa is giving mixed signals about whether he would use his office’s new powers to veto local objections to housing construction if elected next month.

During a meeting with the Star’s editorial board on Monday, Penalosa, who is seen as Mayor John Tory’s most prominent challenger in the Oct. 24 vote, said he would be open to using new powers of « strong mayor » to push through his housing plan. advice.

The comment indicated that Penalosa would be willing to aggressively combat local opposition to new developments, a phenomenon that many see as a driving force behind Toronto’s housing affordability crisis.

It was also a break from previous statements by Penalosa, in which he pledged not to exercise the expanded powers Premier Doug Ford’s government has given leaders in Toronto and Ottawa.

After the board meeting, Penalosa’s campaign sent out a statement rebutting remarks he made hours earlier and reiterating his commitment not to use the strong mayor provisions.

During the meeting at the Star’s office at 1 Yonge Street, Penalosa touted the benefits of his housing plan, which would legalize rooming houses, allow for greater density along transit corridors and incentivize landlords to subdivide their properties into a maximum of six rental units, among other measures.

Parts of the platform would likely face a fierce backlash from some Toronto landlords, who in recent years have waged organized campaigns against densification in their neighborhoods, often with the support of their local councilors.

Asked if he would use the strong mayor’s new powers, which include vetoing council decisions, to get his housing plan approved, Penalosa said that if he wins the vote, he would govern using « all the rules of the game » in place.

“So am I going to govern with strong mayoral powers? Yes, if those are the rules of the game when I become mayor,” he said.

It was a stark contrast to Penalosa’s initial criticism of the province plan, which the Star first reported in July.

« As mayor, I am committed to using the power of ideas, rather than the power of a veto, to inspire Torontonians and councillors, » he said in a July 19 statement.

On Monday evening, Penalosa’s campaign attempted to backtrack on his remarks earlier in the day, saying in a statement that the candidate had responded to a « hypothetical situation » from a reporter that was « unrealistic. »

« As I have done from the beginning, I pledge not to use the mayor’s veto, » the statement read.

Ontario’s Conservative government passed the Strong Mayor Act on September 8, and the expanded powers will come into effect during the next term of council.

The mayors of the province’s two largest cities will be able to veto council decisions that they believe would undermine provincial policy goals. They will also be able to table the annual budget and make policy recommendations directly to the board.

Tory says he supports the new powers.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto reporter who covers city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Contact him by email at or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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