DAN CEARNS The Standard

DURHAM: The Ontario provincial government has announced they will not seek to force any municipalities to amalgamate, following the results of the government’s Regional government review.
“Earlier this year, the government conducted a review of Ontario’s eight regional governments and Simcoe County. Over 8,500 submissions were received and the Special Advisors, Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling, attended nine in-person sessions and listened to ideas from individuals and organizations on how to improve their local governments,” read a press release from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Throughout this extensive review, the government 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.”
Instead the provincial government is making funding available of up to $143 million to all 444 municipalities to encourage them to find efficiencies.
“Municipalities are the level of government closest to the people, but every community is different – one size doesn’t fit all,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in the press release. “This investment in communities will support municipal transformation efforts to make sure they are delivering efficient, effective and modern services that best meet the unique needs of their residents.”
Scugog’s Mayor Bobbie Drew welcomed the province’s decision. “I am very pleased that the provincial government has decided not to proceed with the Regional Government Review and instead, acknowledges that municipalities should have control over their own governance. The idea of possible forced amalgamations would have been a difficult road. We know our residents and our local cultural and heritage identity and we thank the province of Ontario for recognizing our distinctions and preserving the two-tier Durham Regional structure,” she said, in a statement. “We will continue to advocate for a more equitable share of funding for rural Ontario municipalities. We will continue to work hard every day to find efficiencies, modernize our technology and service delivery and work in partnership with the Region and the Province to best serve our community.”
Durham’s Regional Chair John Henry also released a statement following the announcement. “In Durham Region, we are fortunate to have clearly defined upper- and local-tier roles and responsibilities. This ensures that services are planned, funded and delivered on a broad geographical scale. We work together, in collaboration with the eight local area municipalities, to address common challenges. We have seen, first-hand, the results of this strong approach. It’s about leadership and advocating for good governance. Because we understand the specific needs of our communities, we can ensure the most effective government for our residents and stakeholders,” he said. “In February, all nine heads of council (in Durham Region) collectively conveyed our productive and strong track record; showcasing how we work together to serve our residents. We summarized our valuable services, innovative ideas, and a demonstrated dedication to customer service. We outlined how continuous improvement and innovative thinking are part of our core business. Recent leadership changes have allowed the Region and local municipalities to conduct internal service reviews, support innovation, and develop new shared service arrangements. In Durham Region, we address common challenges by aligning services, when needed.”
The statement later added the Region looks “forward to continuing to work with the province to improve municipal service delivery.”