It is time for Honest,Direct Engagement and Straight Talk about what the possible impacts of Upper Tier Dissolution will be other than expensive

By Blair Smith

May 22, 2023



Burlington Today reports that:

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward says there will “absolutely not be a City of Halton.”

She told BurlingtonToday that Burlington council has agreed to support an assessment of Halton Region and be an active participant in that process, after passing a motion at its May 16 meeting.

Burlington, along with Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills are gathered together as a Region. The Region has its own Official Plan that Burlington must comply with. The Region handles Social Services, Waste and water management, some roads, police and Emergency Services. It levies taxes which the city collects.

“Everything else is on the table,” she said, adding things like transit could be uploaded to the Region and other things downloaded, “but it must deliver better service for better value.”

To be polite, here we go again with our Mayor answering a question that may have been relevant six months ago but hardly now in the face of Minister Clark’s announcement on Thursday.

Actually, it’s puzzling why BurlingtonToday would choose to report the Mayor’s comments since their context is now rather dramatically changed. And just to be completely accurate, “the motion” was tabled as a “consent item” at the May 16th Council meeting with no questions, comments or debate. So much for being “an active participant”.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward greeting Premier Doug Ford during a tour of Joseph Brant Hospital.

Indeed, there will certainly not be “a City of Halton”; there may be no Halton at all. There may be no City of Burlington either, although I imagine that Meed Ward is eager to accept the prospects of a Mississauga scenario with abundant Strong Mayor powers.

The reality is that the Ontario Government is once again rolling the municipal dice and the target – not for economies of scale and operational efficiencies but for better management of new housing targets – is the Upper Tier.

All the services that were consolidated will be disaggregated into the emancipated municipalities and the costs, both of dissolution and of creating needed service depth and structure, will be borne by the taxpayer.

Will Burlington benefit if Halton Region is dissolved? It is impossible to say at this point but I personally don’t like the prospects. The economics just don’t make sense.

When a group of us fought regional amalgamation in 2019 we believed that we were protecting local voice and decision-making. Today, we would be far less enthusiastic. Even in 2019 we acknowledged and supported the benefits of further consolidation of certain services and functions at the regional level – things like information technology, fleet management, common purchasing, vendors of record and transportation.

However, we felt that cities, such as Burlington and Oakville, should have strong influence over how they grew as communities and should not be amalgamated into an indistinct ‘melting pot’. That would still be our belief today despite the failure of our Council to deliver on their promises and a truly remarkable opportunity.

It is time for honest and direct engagement with Burlington’s citizens – straight talk about what the possible impacts of Upper Tier dissolution are. Given the fact that the municipalities left standing and perhaps whole will still be creatures of the province, subject to provincial direction and control, but now tasked with funding standalone services, it is difficult to be enthusiastic.

Related news story:

The article that brought out the opinion.

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1 comment to It is time for Honest,Direct Engagement and Straight Talk about what the possible impacts of Upper Tier Dissolution will be other than expensive

  • Gary Scobie

    Remember, Mr. Ford immediately cut Toronto Council in half when first elected Premier. That was his initiation into the province as the bully in municipal governance and he felt quite pleased with the result, despite other opinions.

    That got him thinking about possible changes in regional government that might eliminate their municipalities or at least merge them. My friends at “We Love Burlington” mustered research, reporting and bluster at Queen’s Park and showed that Burlington, along with their Oakville colleagues were not about to lie down on the road of false intentions by the province, and they helped get the idea shelved, for good they hoped. Never say never with politics.

    Premier Ford made his next focus not efficiencies between regions and their municipalities but simply math from the federal government – how many new people were going to flood Ontario in the next 30 years. Ontario, here’s your share, figure it out. This was so much easier to understand for Mr. Ford and his grammer school knowledge of arithmetic. Divide up the numbers by regions and tell them to get to work, disrupting any planning already in the pipe. He created the problem that he now has a different approach to fixing. Maybe sweep away regions, maybe even some municipalities if necessary to bulldoze Ontario into the biggest building boom ever, regardless of service capability or even management. Oh wait, he’ll figure that out once his people declare the best route to follow – the provincial route. Thank goodness we have a premier who can come up with simple answers to difficult questions and blame any issues along the way like environmental protection, loss of local governance and loss of local services on the federal government, the real ones in charge but not with responsibility.

    Now think about – what could go wrong? And we thought everyone cared about our climate emergency. Apparently not Mr Ford and not Mr. Trudeau.