Yesterday afternoon, 16 mayors from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) region met at Toronto City Hall at the invitation of Toronto Mayor John Tory for a closed-door meeting to discuss shared issues that cross our municipal boundaries, such as transit, affordable housing, and climate change. We know that no one municipality can fully address these issues alone, and with a federal election coming up, there is an opportunity for us all to speak with a united voice on behalf of our communities.
We agreed that we need to send a message to both the federal and provincial governments that money has to follow the downloading of additional services resulting from legislative changes that are outside of our control. Cannabis legislation is just one example as municipalities, whether they opt in or out of allowing retail cannabis stores, will incur costs, and the funding announced so far is insufficient.
We further discussed issues ranging from the Places to Grow Act, greenbelt development, affordable housing, and transit.
We have committed to meet again as GTHA mayors and continue to collaborate on the issues that matter to our constituents. In two weeks, a number of us will also be meeting as part of the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and we will discuss these matters at that table as well.
During our meeting, the provincial government announced they have undertaken a process to review the effectiveness and efficiency of regional governments across the province, creating some concerns and speculation about the possibility of future amalgamations. The purpose of the review is to look for opportunities to better serve the communities involved and evaluate the areas of governance, decision-making and service delivery. We all welcome a conversation on how to make government more efficient and effective, but agree that any changes must be done in consultation with area municipalities.
Burlington is already an efficient council, the smallest of Halton Region at seven members, and the smallest of any Ontario municipality of our size. The Region is also already efficient and effective: we enjoy being the safest region in Canada, a Triple A credit rating, high satisfaction on our services, and tax increases at or below the rate of inflation (with a number of years of no increases).
My fellow GTHA mayors and I agree that we would like to work with the province and our constituents on any changes. Instead of a hatchet, we’d like more of a handshake approach from the province. Additional information about the review can be found here.