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Burlington Council Receives Update on Province’s Regional Government Review Process

CR_Regional Review Update - TW

At our Jan. 16 meeting, Burlington City Council received a staff report update on the Province’s Regional Government Review process and approved a staff direction for the City Manager to report back by Q1 2024 with a process, timing and tax room implications for recommended non-exclusive services to be devolved to the City of Burlington.

The Provincial Government’s process for regional review has not been outlined for the regions originally identified in November 2022. While the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy have begun to hear, and are expected to continue to hear from delegations, the impact of the pending legislation to revise the mandate of the Peel Transition Board on our Committee of the Whole’s work is also not known.

On Jan. 11, Councillors Paul Sharman and Rory Nisan, and I, delegated to the Standing Committee — click/tap the link to read our remarks and presentations.

Regional CAOs support and see the benefit of pursuing opportunities to streamline and optimize services and have directed staff to form a working group to initiate this work. Regular updates on this work will be provided to Burlington Council as the work progresses.

See the approved full motion from Council, My Take, and the associated staff report below, as well as additional background information further down this post.

APPROVED MOTION:

  • Direct the City Manager to report back on a regular basis to Committee of the Whole on the status of the regional CAOs’ service review process; and
  • Direct the City Manager to report back in Q1 2024 as required with an update on Provincial legislation associated with the regional review process, specifically associated but not limited to, the recalibration of the Peel Region transition board to focus on options to enhance the self-determination of local governments to support building more homes faster and improve local service delivery; and
  • Direct the City Manager to report back by Q1 2024 with a process, timing and tax room implications for recommended non-exclusive services to be devolved to the city.

MY TAKE:

We’ve been clear that we want to look at services identified as duplicated, and not exclusive to the Region. When the Province first asked us for our input in its 2019 review of regional government structure, our majority response was that we did not want a megacity of Halton and to keep the Region as is. We thought the discussion was settled, but the Province has brought it back again during this term of Council. By doing so, they lit the fire for us to look at organizational optimization in the service of our community. Things have to be better for the community. I believe there are areas, some already identified, we can make better, faster and I believe cheaper. At Peel Region, they’re doing exactly what we’re looking at, what services should stay at Regional level and which should be downloaded services to local municipalities. I look forward to seeing the findings in the upcoming City Manager’s report to Council.

•                    •                    •

To read the staff report and related supporting documents, please click/tap the links below:

BACKGROUND:

In late 2018, the Provincial Government appointed Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn as special advisors to assist with the regional government review. The special advisors received over 8,500 written submissions and attended nine in-person sessions hearing
from almost 100 individuals and organizations through the consultation process from March 13 to May 21, 2019. While the report was completed in the latter part of 2019, it was never made public, remaining as confidential advice to Provincial cabinet.

In November 2022, the provincial government indicated 6 regions: Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, and Simcoe County would be subject to a regional review process. It was anticipated facilitators would be appointed to conduct the reviews; yet the timing of this announcement was unknown.

In May 2023, Council endorsed a motion concerning City of Burlington Expectations Regarding Provincial Review of Regional Governments. This motion demonstrated Burlington City Council is fully committed and prepared to actively participate in the upcoming assessment of Halton Region upper and lower-tier responsibilities based on achieving and/or contributing to the outlined first principles and key strategic outcomes.

In addition, this motion stated the Mayor would communicate these first principles and key strategic outcomes, along with an attached letter outlining the City’s approach to growth of the City of Burlington to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. As of August 22, 2023, it was anticipated the Province would announce the facilitators by September 11, 2023.

On September 11, 2023, Council received a report from the City Manager on preparing for the regional review process (CM-14-23) with the following recommendations approved by Council:

  • Direct the City Manager following the announcement of the regional facilitator for Halton on September 11, 2023 to report back to the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability Committee at their meeting of October 4, 2023 with a full update on the provincial regional review process and a recommended strategy for the City of Burlington including key actions, milestone dates and community engagement plan, in keeping with the framework outlined in city manager’s office report CM-14-23; and
  • Direct the City Manager to report back to council in conjunction with the 2024 budget process on proposed organizational design options and recommendations to address both a) future city service delivery impacts related to the regional review process and b) Council’s strategic priority of accelerating new housing development application and permit approvals to enable achievement Burlington Housing Pledge (minimum 29,000 units by 2031).

On September 13, 2023, the newly appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced his request of the Chair of the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy to take on the work of regional review.

In his request, the Minister acknowledged the “need to provide stability, transparency, and continuity for local governments as they work to meet their housing targets – even as we ensure that existing structures are not standing in the way of getting homes
built.” This request asks “the committee consider commencing a study to review and valuate local governance structures and service delivery in these areas to ensure that they are providing effective and accountable government, particularly when it comes to getting more homes built.” This approach ensures the work can “occur in a manner that is public, open and accountable, with opportunities for participation from members of all parties, local governments and the public, including in the affected communities.”

The Minister’s request focused on four questions:

  • “Is two-tier government in these regions supporting or hindering the construction of new homes and the provision of effective local governance more generally?
  • Are there responsibilities and services that could be combined, amended or moved from one level of local government to another, or combined among existing local governments to support the construction of new homes and the provision of effective local government more generally?
  • Is the municipal governance structure within each of these regions supporting the construction of new homes and the provision of effective local governance more generally?
  • Could any changes to regional governance enhance local services and/or provide better value to taxpayers?”

On November 6, 2023, the standing committee began its public hearings holding its first session in Barrie and scheduling additional hearings in 2024 in Durham, Halton, Niagara, County of Simcoe, Waterloo, and York. At the writing of this report, the Mayor has registered to make an oral presentation in Burlington on Thursday, January 11, 2024.

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A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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