News of the potential secession of the Town of Erin from Wellington County was something we greeted with immediate disbelief.
Our reporter was a few sentences in before we realized this was a real thing and not just a pre-Christmas gag or extremely premature April Fools’ type joke. No, this was serious.
Reading between the lines it would appear the old bugbear about Erin paying a disproportionate share of tax has reared its head again. Just in time for an election, local politicians and town administrators are going down the fabled road of hardship and seeking sources elsewhere to blame for their reality.
It is a trek that Puslinch and Guelph/Eramosa could join in as well, but historically they have accepted their fate as a desirable destination that happens to come with a price. Assessment values correspond with geography and it only stands to reason under the current system that homes of greater value will pay more tax.
Absent from the musings of Erin’s consultant are any definitive details about process. How was the information compiled when neither Wellington County nor Peel Region were willingly, let alone knowingly, participants in the study? Halton Hills has yet to confirm its role, if any.
Curiously, no details were provided on the very politically-charged process that would ensue should Erin pursue secession. No timeframes have been provided, but we are fairly confident in predicting nothing will happen before next fall’s election. So why now?
Erin is resolute in its actions and the $50,000 budgeted to prepare this questionable report. Mayor Alls puts it as a way “to elicit discussions on a fair share for Erin taxpayers.” Their hired spokesperson, Lavina Dixit, further elaborated “the content of the report provides a look at the different options that offer value for tax dollars. It does not provide a recommendation or suggestion on any action.”
So what exactly was this process really about? What’s the end game?
It would appear to be a carryover of a provincial directive back in 2019. There, the newly minted “Ford Nation” was dishing out funds to help municipalities modernize service delivery through shared service agreements and generally finding ways to spend money more wisely.
Most of us might call that a service review, but for Erin it was labelled a governance review, hence the capacity to shoehorn secession options into the conversation. We find it bizarre. But what isn’t these days.
For now, the county can wait for Erin to make its move. While it is not the nature of the organization to pull up stakes and protect its own interests, there is nothing stopping the county from being wary about upcoming business dealings in Erin. Have no fear residents – the roads will be plowed and policed, library books will be exchanged and garbage/recycling will be handled. But, under the circumstances with a clearly unhappy member, should investments like the new Erin library or major roadworks be put on hold? It is a realistic question.
Instead, we suspect the county will rise above this latest fracas, choosing instead to take the high road in service of Erin residents, as it has for generations, knowing councils and staff come and go.