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Province of Ontario appoints special advisors to begin Regional Government Review

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The Provincial Government announced today it was moving ahead with its review of regional governments and appointed Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling as Special Advisors.

The advisors will consult broadly over the coming months and provide recommendations to improve governance, decision-making and service delivery, the Ontario PCs have said, adding the regional government model has been in place for almost 50 years in Ontario and the review is meant to ensure that regional governments are working efficiently and effectively.

The review will examine Ontario’s eight regional municipalities (Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, Peel, Muskoka District, and Oxford County), the County of Simcoe, and their lower-tier municipalities. In total, 82 upper- and lower-tier municipalities are included in the review.

“Our government committed to improving the way regional government works and we will be looking at ways to make better use of taxpayers’ dollars and make it easier for residents and businesses to access important municipal services. Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling bring a wealth of experience that will help us examine if the way regions are governed is working for the people.” — Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark.

The advisors will work with the province to explore:

  • Opportunities to make it easier for residents and businesses to access municipal services;
  • Processes to deliver efficient and effective local services that respects taxpayers’ money;
  • Methods to make municipalities open for business; and,
  • Possibilities to cut red tape and duplication, and save costs.

Local residents and businesses will be consulted in spring 2019.

MY TAKE:

I was interviewed by InsideHalton.com on this issue and have said while I am open to any discussion of how government can be made better and more efficient, that conversation should include the public instead of something just being imposed by the province.

An important issue facing Burlington and other Halton municipalities is that too much is out of the control of local representatives. There is something about local government that we need to protect and preserve because it provides immediate and direct access, and we have learned through planning matters that residents want to have as much control as possible over not just planning matters, but really any issue that directly affects their lives. They want that control locally.

I’m in favour of that. I think giving decision-making control to residents and their directly-elected officials, and having us be the final decision makers is the key.

Since news of this decision by the province came out, there have been allusions to the possibility of future amalgamations. While greater co-operation between municipalities is necessary to tackle certain issues, such as affordable housing and transportation, I don’t believe amalgamation is necessary to achieve this.

Burlington already has a small municipal government, which I believe sets the standard for efficiency. I don’t think the Province should be looking at amalgamation with us, rather they should be looking to us to set some examples for others.

That said, I don’t believe anyone can predict what the Province will do next.

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