Power to create By-laws belongs to Council says Mayor

In Ontario Bill 13 being considered by the Ontario Government, Schedule 19 of the Planning Act has added a new section, 39.2, that “… provides the Council of a local municipality to, by by-law, delegate the authority to pass by-laws under Section 34 that are of a minor nature to a committee of council or an inidividual who is an officer, employee or agent of the municipality. The Schedule also makes consequential amendments to the Municipal Act.”

In the Saugeen Shores Planning Committee Report of November 15th, 2021, brought to Council on Monday, November 22nd, the municipal Planning Committee recommended that Council direct staff to provide comments in support of Bill 13, specifically pertaining to matters related to the Planning Act.

It was also recommended by the Committee that Council direct staff to initiate an amendment to the Official Plan to enable delegation of passage of minor By-laws to Committees of Council or a staff person, when and if the Act comes into effect and return to Council with a recommendation.

The recommendation was moved by Committee Chair, Deputy Mayor Don Matheson and seconded by Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt.

Before a vote could be taken however, Mayor Luke Charbonneau weighed in with his views.

“I cannot support this. The power to create By-laws is a power that is reserved to Council for good reason and that power not ought to be delegated ever to administration.  The power to make laws belongs to the people and the power of enforcing those By-laws belongs to the administration.  Those two boundaries should not be crossed. I think there’s a good argument to make our processes more efficient but we can do that within the context of our By-laws.  We pass By-laws and give our staff the ability within those By-laws to act and serve the public more quickly. We do that all the time when we, for example, turn site plan control powers over to our Infrastructure and Development staff.  We do that within the context of a By-law but Council retains its fundamental authority to pass By-laws.  There’s no such thing as a minor By-law. By-laws are By-laws. Councils pass By-laws.  Staff should not have the authority to enact laws on behalf of the people, only the people’s representatives should ever do that.”

At that point, Deputy Mayor Don Matheson totally agreed with the Mayor.  “Mr. Mayor I apologize and remove my motion and support for that.”

Councillor Dave Myette asked if what staff were being asked to do is bring back a recommendation setting out the powers that Council would delegate to them. “This isn’t us giving them any power at this point in time.  We are saying ‘go back’, have a look at the Act, Bill 13 and, if it passes, what would be some of the things we would delegate to them and then we would vote on it at that time.”

Mayor Charbonneau re-read the motion saying that it would ask staff directly to do work to figure out how to delegate By-law authority.  “I don’t want them to start doing that work because I am never going to support the changes.  That’s my view.  I don’t want them to start working on it because I am not interested in it.”

Councillor Myette, replacing Matheson, moved the recommendation.

Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt then also withdrew his seconding of the recommendation. “I withdraw my motion to second this having listened to your views on this Mr. Mayor.  We can go with some discussion but not a lot.  What you are saying about passing By-laws and not delegating more authority to staff, I agree with.  I will not second the motion.”

When the request for a seconder was put forward three times, no Councillor stepped up and, therefore, the resolution was tabled.