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The Roles of the Mayor and Council

The following excerpt is from the “Northumberland County Councillor Training Manual” dated November 25th, 2010.  It brings forth a legitimate and very important concern whereby some Mayors confuse their role as the CEO with that of the CAO.

“It is somewhat surprising that when a new municipal Act was passed in 2001, strengthening municipal governments, it did nothing to strengthen the position of head of council- given the widespread view that Ontario Municipalities were saddled with a "weak mayor" system of government. The 2006 amendment to the Municipal Act that authorized the head of council to act as CEO is an unfortunate importation of business terminology that could lead some mayors to misinterpret or confuse their role with that of the CAO- and thus become improperly involved in administrative matters.

If there is any responsibility assigned with respect to the administration, it has been given to the council, in the previously cited roles relating to controllership, accountability, and transparency. The head of council's leadership is to be exercised with the rest of council, not the administration - and the leading of council is usually more than enough challenge by itself! Heads of council have but ONE vote, just like EVERY OTHER member of council. Personality, temperament, and unifying vision are usually the foundation for a strong mayor-much more than the legislative provisions.
Given that municipal powers are discharged in meetings, the role of head of council as chair is very important. But all councillors are responsible for ensuring a well run meeting and adherence to the municipality's procedure by-law.

Head of council is the CEO NOT CAO.
Administrative oversight rests with council NOT the head of council.
Head of council is to lead the council NOT the administration.”


The Official wording for the “Roles of the Mayor and Council” as described in the Municipal Act of 2001 follow: Municipal Organization and Administration

Role of council

224. It is the role of council,

(a) to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality;
(b) to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality;
(c) to determine which services the municipality provides;
(d) to ensure that administrative policies, practices and procedures and controllership policies, practices and procedures are in place to implement the decisions of council;
(d.1) to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior management of the municipality;
(e) to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality; and
(f) to carry out the duties of council under this or any other Act.  2001, c. 25, s. 224; 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 99.

Role of head of council

225. It is the role of the head of council,

(a) to act as chief executive officer of the municipality;
(b) to preside over council meetings so that its business can be carried out efficiently and effectively;
(c) to provide leadership to the council;
(c.1) without limiting clause (c), to provide information and recommendations to the council with respect to the role of council described in clauses 224 (d) and (d.1);
(d) to represent the municipality at official functions; and
(e) to carry out the duties of the head of council under this or any other Act.  2001, c. 25, s. 225; 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 100.

Head of council as chief executive officer

226.1 As chief executive officer of a municipality, the head of council shall,

(a) uphold and promote the purposes of the municipality;
(b) promote public involvement in the municipality’s activities;
(c) act as the representative of the municipality both within and outside the municipality, and promote the municipality locally, nationally and internationally; and
(d) participate in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality and its residents.  2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 101.

Chief administrative officer

229. A municipality may appoint a chief administrative officer who shall be responsible for,

(a) exercising general control and management of the affairs of the municipality for the purpose of ensuring the efficient and effective operation of the municipality; and
(b) performing such other duties as are assigned by the municipality.  2001, c. 25, s. 229.