It seems like last week but it was nearly ten years ago now that the topic of amalgamation was hot and heavy. As county councillors and township officials battled it out, one possible player remained very quiet.
The City of Guelph faced numerous rumoured scenarios, including a place in Waterloo Region or a larger role within the County of Wellington. Guelph is an oddity, existing as a separated city in Ontario, because it was realized long ago that political issues of regional importance need mutual attention. While our personal preferences do not include an amalgamation exercise with the City of Guelph, there is no doubt the province needs to play a stronger role in how services of a regional nature are delivered in this area.
Currently, the city has numerous shared services and arrangements with Wellington County and its townships. Ambulance, court services, social housing and other social services, the home for the aged, and so on, are areas where the city and county work to meet the needs of residents. Generally the relationship has been amicable, but we understand that the friendly historic arrangement has all but dried up. Pettiness now seems to rule the day.
That is unfortunate for a number of reasons, least of which is the obvious inability to get along and provide services without a lot of fuss. The irony is not lost on us that tax fighters – elected in the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington – who set current attitudes in motion remain a priceless lesson to residents who think electing acrimonious cheapskates will make for better, more cost-effective government. The damage to the public psyche has been incalculable.
Looking over the past few years, the county continues to take a leadership role, as well as being good neighbours. The purchase and restoration of the historic city post office into an institution that serves the less fortunate is one example. The building of a long-term care facility to meet the needs in this region is another. It strikes us that when an issue is raised that needs an answer, the county level of government has the foresight to tackle issues. During that time, the City of Guelph has seemed happier to argue and withhold payments rather than get on with business. It is somewhat surprising the results of the last city election did not entirely put an end to much of that nonsense.
The most recent slight, certainly as perceived by the supporters of the youth centre group in Guelph, is that the county does not act quickly enough. A request to purchase a building in Guelph to serve primarily Guelph youth was turned down at county council. The rejection of that suggestion is detailed in this week’s Wellington Advertiser.
While we do not believe the rejection was made out of spite, it does not take much of a leap to wonder aloud if county council has grown tired of always stepping up to the plate when its partner acts so contrarily.
As the city and county battle over agreements and funding obligations, we hope that at some point the province will facilitate an exercise to end the debacle. Efforts to sidestep financial obligations by the City of Guelph are a serious source of consternation for county officials, since much of the financing and budgeting was based on historic Guelph participation.
With luck, this impasse can and should be corrected.