There is a better than even chance that the Ford government will strip citizens of effective political representation next year.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 21st, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They gather every year for an annual conference – an event that lets the municipal sector talk to the provincial ministers about what’s coming down the pipe.

In Ontario the municipalities are creatures of the province; their names and their boundaries can be changed at the whim of the Premier.

The province has made it very clear that they want to reduce the $11 billion debt that the Liberals left when they were basically wiped out electorally by the Progressive Conservatives.

When that last happened we all thought Mike Harris was a disaster – now we get to see Doug Ford up close and in person and we learn what a disaster really is.

Steve Clark Minister of Muni affairs Ontario

Minister Clark.

Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipalities spoke at the AMO conference to talk about what he had in mind. He spoke the day after the Premier who made it clear that there were major cuts coming, what the province was going to pay for and what the municipalities were going to have to come up with.

It looked as if the Premier was going to find the money to pay down the provincial debt by forcing the municipalities to pick up more of the freight for the services they deliver.

Moody’s debt rating service said they thought the damage would amount to a $2 billion hit to the municipal sector.

Clark sugar coated everything his Ministry was going to do – it sounded like sunshine and lollipop pops or a verse from The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

It wasn’t until the very end of his speech that we got to see the sleeper – amalgamation is going to take place despite what Burlington’s MPP said.

Clark said: “At last year’s conference, I announced we would be reviewing the regional government system. It’s been in place for almost 50 years — and we wanted local input on how to improve governance, decision-making and service delivery.

Fenn Michael 2

Michael Fenn

“I’ve been unequivocal from day one and stated throughout the review — we have no preconceived outcomes” and added that “Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn are finalizing their recommendations — over 8,500 submissions and close to 100 in-person presentations were received — an overwhelming response — and I look forward to receiving their report.

“I’ll have more to say this fall. For now, I want to thank everyone who participated.”

Not so fast Minister.

Seiling-Ken-2-768x1006

Ken Seiling

When Seiling and Fenn were at Halton Region listening to delegations they mentioned that the event was their last stop and that they were ready to distill what they had heard into a report they would give the Minister by the end of July.

The concern for many at the Halton event was – would the report be made public. Seiling pointed out that they had been asked to do the work by the Minister and that the report would be given to the Minister – he would decide if and when it was to be made public.

There were delegations on how well the Region of Halton operated.  Ken Seilling challenged an Oakville delegation that suggested the financial impact was going to be severe if there was any kind of amalgamation in Halton.

At the end of July we heard that the report would not be released until after the federal election.

2018 Council

This Regional Council consists of ward representatives plus the Mayor from each municipality. Far too many people for Doug Ford’s liking.

Yesterday we learned that it will not be on the table until next year.

Most people believe the report has been completed; that the Minister has read it and decided what the government  will be doing.

It will have been discussed at Cabinet and there may well be bureaucrats creating new maps.

Halton map cropped

Will these municipalities get down graded to being a ward in a city?

Will Halton and it’s four municipalities be organized into something called the City of Halton? Far too early to know – what we do know is that Premier Ford is not shy when it comes to downsizing local government.

When he was in Oakville speaking to the Chambers of Commerce from the four municipalities, he was recognizing people in the audience. As he was reading out the names of those from Oakville he paused and said: “Boy, you’ve got a lot of people on that council.” The feeling that rippled across the Burlington Convention Centre was palpable.

Doug Ford thinks a Board of 7 to 9 people is what corporations need and he sees municipalities as corporate structures. Having people at the table who can effectively represent a community is not the role Ford sees for a politician.

His approach is to do it all himself. At that same event he read out his cell number and said ‘you can call me anytime’.

Doug Ford does not understand local politics, doesn’t respect the needs of communities at the grass roots level.

Expect the worst and hope that the very real representation problems in the Niagara Region get the attention they need and that Halton is left alone.

The Gazette got some comments from a former Ontario civil servant who served in several ministries who told us that he “would be very surprised if Clark has not been thoroughly briefed on what the report contains and its main recommendations. “

Our source added that he would “not be the least surprised if there was not some attempt to shape the main recommendations and right from the beginning of the process.

Steve Clark H&S

Minister of Municipalities Steve Clark: Already fully briefed?

“Ministers never “receive” anything that they’ve formally commissioned until they’re ready. They are briefed at regular intervals so that there are ‘no surprises and the final report is an anti-climax at best.

“Well in advance of the formal transmission of the Fenn/Seiling report a fulsome communications strategy will have been developed, ready for precise deployment like the Normandy invasion.”

That invasion of citizen rights looks as if it is going to take place sometime early in the New Year.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Related new stories:

We Love Burlington delegates

Background on the Provincial Review of Regional governments

Edwardh describes Provincial Review as very limited

 

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5 comments to There is a better than even chance that the Ford government will strip citizens of effective political representation next year.

  • Carol Victor

    What more can we expect of Conservatives…watch out if we put Sheer in the PM’s office in the Federal Election…Trump will have a real ally and we will have unprecedented backwardness in our democracy.

    • Don Fletcher

      Straight from the Liberal Party of Canada’s re-election playbook. Now let’s all hold hands, step over Justin Trudeau’s proven incompetence, financial irresponsibility, dishonesty and arrogance and mindlessly vote for another four years of “sunny ways”. Seriously!

  • Hans Jacobs

    There is also a much better than even chance that Ford’s will be a one term government, one that will be remembered as destructive and incompetent. I’m sure many of us are counting the days until the next provincial election to get rid of this pathetic group that needs a “do over” for everything it tries to change.

  • Don Fletcher

    The spectre of changes being made at the municipal level makes it all the more important for Burlington to draft and gain approval of a new Official Plan, and sooner rather than later.

  • Tom Muir

    You must have talked to the same former Mayor as I did – he said better than even chance too.

    It’s just a grasp for more power by Ford, and a silencing of diverse voices that know where they and their people live.

    I can’t imagine his idea of 6 or 7 Corporate Directors having a clue except forming a good old fashioned Central Committee of Halton.

    No money will be saved except Councilor salaries, but new hand-selected and favored Executives, as loyal Party Bosses, will have to be appointed at 3 times the salary.

    There will be no net savings that I can see – unless they gut the staff.

    What a bloody disaster it will be for local self-government.

    Prepare for the lies campaign to accompany any announcement of amalgamation.

    I’m sick just thinking about it.

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