Last week, we talked about the Ontario PC government's impending review of the efficiency and accountability of Regional governments. To read the article, please visit:http://www.chinesenewsgroup.com/news/665980
When Premier Ford reverted the election of Regional Chair back to the hands of the Regional Councillors for York and Peel regions, many thought that he was just trying to stop Patrick Brown from becoming Peel Region Chair. That may or may not be true but now it looks more like Ford was trying to kill two birds with one stone.
Ford's secondary target is actually the bloated York Region! It is far easier to amalgamate cities within the York region and having to deal with an “appointed” Region Chair than one elected by the population of over one million people.
Long before Ford became Ontario PC leader and as early as in November, 2016 the amalgamation of cities within York region was put forward by Markham Regional Councillor Jim Jones. He suggested that Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan and even parts of Whitchurch-Stouffville and King should be amalgamated into one city. Jones wanted to open the discussion and kick off with merging services such as fire protection before leading ultimately to a political merger.
Three quarters of York Region’s population live in Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. These cities are growing closer together and the population in York region will increase by another 700,000 residents by 2041. In hind sight, this almost look like a prophecy today even though no one was paying attention to it back then. Was Jones hearing whispers within the PC party back then or was it just his own idea?
Jones was talking about efficiencies that could be achieved back then with amalgamation. The strength of that one mega city with a population of over one million people will be able to stand up to Toronto when it comes to conflicts between them. His idea was not shared by then Deputy Mayor and Regional Councillor Jack Heath who thought that there were other priorities such as working on better transportation and all sorts of other major issues. To Jack Heath, organization of a mega city was far less important than getting on with the tasks at hand.
I have a similar idea to Jones'. Based on discussions with others in the political circle, Markham will absorb Whitchurch-Stouffville, Richmond Hill will absorb Aurora and Newmarket, and Vaughan will get King City. The rest of that area up north to Lake Simcoe (East Gwillimbury and Georgina) will form a new city. York region will remain but only dealing with four amalgamated cities. It will have a much smaller employee count and income. Of course, there can be a small variation where Newmarket becomes the fourth City and absorbs the two other small towns north of it.
While I am focusing on possible model of the York Regional Government, I had an opportunity recently to talk to another Regional Chair whose Region is also part of the Ontario Regional Governments review. Our conversation centred around the validity of the Regional Government model. It would seem that until municipalities grow to a certain population level, the Regional Government is a means to pool resources together for the municipalities within itself and provide adequate services to everyone. Beyond that certain population break point, functions and departments will be duplicated within
the overgrown municipalities and redundancies set in, making it a case of diminishing return for tax dollars collected from residents.
What the Region Governments review would recommend is anyone's guess. Many residents advocate the total elimination of Regional Governments. My personal view is that they are here to stay but will take on a different capacity and responsibility appropriate to the size of municipalities under them.
Elected municipal councillors and mayors cannot be eliminated or reassigned until the next municipal election. The electorate and those elected officials empowered by them will not allow this to happen. The implementation of any new Regional Government models will have to wait after the next municipal election in 2022.
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