Despite a request from the mayor of Hamilton, the province isn't planning a review of amalgamation any time soon.
Reviewing amalgamation is “not a priority” for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, said Yanni Dagonas, spokesperson for Linda Jeffrey. And undoing amalgamation is even less likely.
“It’s not something we’re looking at right now.”
Six municipalities amalgamated in 2001 to create the City of Hamilton. Mayor Bob Bratina made it an issue during the 2010 election, which was well received by people still stinging from the forced merger.
Bratina raised the issue again this week. First, he said a review was necessary during his annual state-of-the-city address Wednesday morning. Then on Wednesday afternoon, he held a surprise media event where Prof. Tim Cobban from Western University presented research results.
Cobban’s study showed that amalgamated municipalities have added employees at twice the rate of municipalities that didn’t restructure. Cobban’s message to the government? “Don’t amalgamate. Stop.”
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D’Agonas said Wednesday that the minister wasn’t aware of any correspondence from the mayor yet.
“If she received it, she would take a look at it,” he said of the research.
Undoing amalgamation is complex. The province would only consider restructuring proposals from a council, not a single individual, Dagonas said.
Is it unfair to taxpayers?
The city would also have to prove that individual wards could financially sustain themselves. It would also have to prove that the current system is unfair to taxpayers.
Bratina said on Wednesday that he’s been searching for years for solid information on amalgamation, which came to him in Cobban’s report. Critics of Bratina's amalgamation talk say Wednesday event was early electioneering.
The mayor used funds from his office budget to pay for Cobban’s visit and rent a room at the Sheraton. Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 wasn’t happy with that, but doesn’t plan to pursue it.
“We as a council do not need to get distracted by the shenanigans that were blatantly prevalent yesterday,” he said.
Some residents of Ward 15 in Flamborough are still upset over amalgamation, said Coun. Judi Partridge. But the province has been “very clear” that restructuring is here to stay.
“What I do not want to see is this city council have their focus taken off other issues and put on an issue like amalgamation,” Partridge said. “It really is the mayor’s issue.”