Regional governments review has Ontario mayors on edge

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The announcement of a plan to have a comprehensive review of Ontario’s regional governments has jolted mayors who fear the impact of changes and possible amalgamations.

The review includes all eight regional municipalities — Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, Peel, Muskoka District, Oxford County, and the County of Simcoe — and their lower-tier municipalities, according to a government news release.

In all, 82 municipalities will be examined, and the province hasn’t ruled out the possibility that some could be amalgamated in the future.

The PCs say the review will focus on three areas: governance, decision-making and service delivery.

Under former PC premier Mike Harris, Ontario amalgamated a series of local governments ranging from Kawartha Lakes to Toronto in a similar bid to improve efficiency, though the effectiveness of that strategy has been questioned in the years since.

This system was put in place in 1970 and obviously lots has changed since then. In Ontario, upper-tier municipalities or regions typically oversee services such as policing and garbage pickup, while lower-tier municipalities handle local bylaws. Mayors from around the GTHA were meeting with Toronto Mayor John Tory on Tuesday afternoon as details about the review first emerged.

During a news conference following the meeting, several mayors said they would support the review as long as their communities are made part of the process.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie who has been pushing the idea of getting her city out of Peel and let it chart its own course is hoping that the review will make that a reality.

Crombie reiterated that Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon which comprise the Peel Region are each at different growth stages, with different priorities.

“I think this is a great opportunity to re-evaluate our relationship; this is a relationship that is 44 years old now. It perhaps doesn’t make sense as the way it used to,” she told reporters.

Mississauga could as a result save up to $30 million.

Meanwhile Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown wisely steered clear of commenting negatively about the impending changes saying instead that a review conducted in good faith could be a useful cost-saving tool.

“I wouldn’t assume any inappropriate motivations for the change,” Brown said. “I just hope that the municipalities and the region will be consulted sincerely as this process unfolds.”
Results of the review are expected in early summer. -CINEWS

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