Municipalities won’t face changes as provincial review concludes

QUEEN’S PARK –  The provincial government isn’t planning to compel municipal amalgamations or make major changes to the structure of local government following a 10-month review.

Last January, the province launched a review of eight regional governments and Simcoe County.

Over 8,500 submissions were received and special advisors Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling attended nine in-person sessions to hear ideas from individuals and organizations on how to improve local governments.

Though Wellington County was not included in the review, municipalities across Ontario were awaiting potential fallout from any recommendations stemming from it.

However, in an Oct. 25 press release the government stated it heard that local communities should decide what is best for them in terms of governance, decision-making and service delivery.

“After careful consideration of the feedback we heard through the course of the review, our government stands firm in its commitment to partnering with municipalities without pursuing a top-down approach,” the release states.

“We will provide municipalities with the resources to support local decision making.”

Instead, the government announced it will provide up to $143 million to municipalities to help them lower costs and improve services for local residents over the long term.

Funding will be available to all 444 municipalities to be used to find smarter, more efficient ways to operate and focus spending on vital programs and services for Ontarians.

The new funding will be application-based, unlike a $200 million fund provided to municipalities to find efficiencies last spring.

Wellington County municipalities received a combined total of $4.9 million from the earlier fund. Local municipalities used a portion of that funding to hire a consultant to assist with a county-wide municipal services review aimed at finding efficiencies.

Speaking to reporters at an Association of Municipalities gathering in London on Oct. 25, Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Clark made it clear the government, which reduced the size of Toronto City council from 47 to 25 councillors in the midst of the 2018 municipal election, was not planning to force changes on municipalities.

“So, in other words, there will be no forced amalgamations,” said Clark. “There will also be no forced de-amalgamations and there will be also nothing imposed on a council in terms of size.”