No forced amalgamation of municipalities, minister says
'We will not be imposing these changes on our municipal partners,' Clark says
The province "will not force amalgamation of municipalities," Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark says.
Clark made the announcement in London on Friday morning while attending the Association of Municipalities of Ontario fall policy forum.
Clark says after an extensive municipal government review, that saw more than 8,500 submissions from the public, "We will not force amalgamation of municipalities. We will not impose cuts on municipal councils," Clark said. "I want to make it perfectly clear: We will not be imposing these changes on our municipal partners."
The review looked at 82 upper and lower municipalities in Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, Peel, Muskoka District, Oxford County, and the County of Simcoe.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario tweeted after the announcement that the news "is an important step in the right direction."
"Municipal governments are interested in making changes. We're pleased that the Province is ready to support municipal modernization initiatives," AMO tweeted.
"People expect the province and municipalities to work together … When we work together to meet shared goals, we can deliver better services for people, and respect for taxpayers."
'Very welcome' news
Politicians from around the province welcomed the news on Friday.
Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman told CBC, since the province announced a review of regional governments last fall, it was "a year of distraction, of feeling like we were waiting for a shoe to drop."
"To have clarity and move forward is very welcome," Redman said.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said in a statement that the current structure "helps protect the best interest of Peel Region taxpayers."
Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas tweeted "great news" followed by four exclamation points.
The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, however, said the news may be disappointing to people who wanted to see change.
The chamber's president and CEO Mishka Balsom said in a statement while the province's review is over, it doesn't mean the conversation needs to end.
"The process has shown that there is an appetite and a need for meaningful change and greater efficiency in Niagara, and we hope that local governments will pursue that," Balson said.
More money for audits, service reviews
On Friday, Clark also announced new funding for municipalities, including extending money to help municipalities conduct audits of their financial books to help them find savings.
The province will provide an additional $125 million for the municipal modernization program, which will help municipalities review the way they deliver services.
Clark said the province wants to look at whether it would be a good idea to align the municipal fiscal year with the province. Right now, the municipal fiscal year begins on January 1, while the provincial fiscal year starts on April 1.
As well, the province is looking to amend the Election Act and Municipal Election Act to combine the municipal and provincial voters lists. Clark says one list would be more accurate and reduce delays at the polling stations. If this is approved, the single list would be managed by Elections Ontario.