During Monday’s (Feb. 25) Burlington City Council meeting, I brought forward a resolution in response to the Regional Government Review being undertaken by the provincial government. I am very happy to say it passed unanimously.
In January of this year, the Province announced its plans to review Ontario’s eight regional municipalities by two appointed special advisers. These advisers are evaluating governance, decision-making and service delivery.
At a February meeting with Interim City Manager Tim Commisso and special advisers Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling, we learned of Mr. Fenn and Mr. Seiling’s report preparation process and they shared with us they have not been directed toward a particular outcome. The report will evolve as they conduct interviews and gather information. They were very clear that they are only providing advice through Provincial Cabinet, albeit they may make some recommendations.
Within the scope of this review is the possibility of recommending a move to single-tier municipalities or amalgamation of existing municipalities.
The resolution I brought forward recommended Council endorse the current two-tier municipal government model in Halton has been and continues to be effective and it has evolved from a mutual agreement with the Region and its lower-tier municipalities since its inception in 1974.
As well, it states that Burlington residents value the distinct identity of their community and do not wish to have their democratic voice diluted within a larger and less-directly accountable municipal governance structure.
Below is the full draft resolution on the Regional Government Review that was passed on Monday.
Whereas, the Government of Ontario has announced a review of Ontario’s eight regional municipalities (Durham, Halton, Muskoka District, Niagara, Oxford County, Peel, Waterloo, York), the County of Simcoe, and their lower-tier municipalities by appointed Special Advisors; and
Whereas, the provincially appointed Special Advisors are to provide advice and develop recommendations for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for the purpose of improving governance, decision-making and service delivery in the eight regions and Simcoe County and their lower-tier municipalities; and
Whereas, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario informed its members last August, that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing began informal discussions on regional governance
review, wishing to hear from municipalities about how this system of governance is working recognizing it was established in the 1970s; and
Whereas, the provincially appointed Special Advisors have included within the scope of their review, consideration of moving to single-tier municipalities or amalgamating existing municipalities; and
Whereas, neither Halton Region, nor the four area municipalities have requested a review of the current regional governance structure; and
Whereas, the City of Burlington, Halton Region and the other Halton area municipalities would receive greater benefit from a review of provincial permitting/approvals and municipal government powers and authority under the Municipal Act; and
Whereas, the regional government review including new single tier municipalities or amalgamations was not ever discussed during the recent provincial election by the Premier or our local Members of Provincial Parliament; and
Whereas, the City of Burlington is well managed and efficient with the smallest Council in Halton and for a city of its size, with only seven elected members; and
Whereas, 97 per cent of Burlington residents are satisfied with the quality of Regional services; and
Whereas, the City of Burlington has contributed to Halton Region’s AAA credit rating; and
Whereas, Halton is a model of municipal efficiency through service agreements between the area municipalities and the Region, including for example the City of Burlington’s operation of
Halton Court Services on behalf of the four area municipalities, the operation of the Fire Communications on behalf of Town of Oakville and the Town of Halton Hills, and the Halton Cooperative Purchasing groups; and
Whereas, the City of Burlington welcomes all opportunities to improve municipal service delivery and achieve greater efficiencies and cost savings for all Burlington and Halton taxpayers and rate payers, now
Therefore, be it resolved,
That the Council of the City of Burlington endorses the current effectiveness of our two-tier municipal government as it has evolved based on mutual agreement with the Region of Halton and our partner Halton lower-tier municipalities since its inception in 1974;
That the residents of the City of Burlington value the distinct identity of their community and do not wish to have their democratic voice diluted, within a larger and less directly accountable
municipal governance structure; and
That this resolution be forwarded to all Halton municipalities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and made publicly available.
We’re very happy to look for efficiencies within our government system, but amalgamating our municipalities into a City of Halton is a non-starter. With Council being once again unanimous in its stance and passing of this resolution, it sends a strong message as to where Burlington is on this matter.