Ditch regional government in favour of services board, Cambridge councillor says

Cambridge Coun. Nicholas Ermeta is proposing doing away with the Region of Waterloo and instead create a local services board with a limited mandate. He says the move would allow the local cities and townships to 'control their own destiny.'

Under plan, region would be replaced by administrative board, Coun. Nicholas Ermeta says

Cambridge Coun. Nicholas Ermeta, who is seeking re-election in the Oct. 22 municipal election, says he would like to see the region become an administrative local services board. He says the move would mean the cities and townships would have more control over what happens in their municipalities. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

Cambridge Coun. Nicholas Ermeta wants to dissolve the Region of Waterloo and replace it with a local services board, an administrative body to help co-ordinate services for Cambridge, Waterloo, Kitchener and the four townships that make up the region.

"It's basically a model where the local municipalities … they each control their own destiny, and the board goes out and provides some of the services at the best possible price,"  said Ermeta.

He's seeking reelection in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

"Each city would run the services, but the mandate of the board, it's got a very limited mandate where it would basically go out and try to find efficiencies as far as the costs are concerned, but the local municipalities would determine the level of service they want," said Ermeta.

Ermeta envisions cross-border agreements between the cities and townships for various services.

He said it would change the dynamics of the area.

"The regional municipality of Waterloo would no longer exist, and it would become the management unit of Waterloo," he said.

Listen to the interview with Cambridge Coun. Nicholas Ermeta:

Support in Cambridge

Creating a services board will mean decision making is put back into the hands of the cities and townships, he said.

"Our local councils are closest to the people, and I would like the people to have a greater say," he said, arguing the regional government is more of a "top-down approach."

"The decisions are made at the upper tier, so the lower tier can still advocate, but at the end of the day, it's the region that makes the decisions. I want to change that," he said.

Ermeta said in Cambridge, people seem willing to talk about this idea. He said this plan is just in the early stages and he hasn't yet approached his counterparts in Kitchener, Waterloo, the townships or the region.

Ermeta said he has found there's "huge support" for the plan from Cambridge residents.

"There's actually a lot of support even for taking the city out of the region and having it as a standalone government, and while I wouldn't rule that out, we don't know how much that would cost so I've explained to a lot of people that a services board provides the independence that they would want while trying to find savings at a regional level," he said.

Ermeta says he's not sure how much it would cost to turn the region into a local services board. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

No amalgamation

As for how much it would cost to turn the regional government into a services board, Ermeta said he wasn't sure.

A report was done by a taskforce about a decade ago looking at the issue, he said, adding, "I'm not going to comment on that right now because a review will have to be undertaken."

Ermeta said if Cambridge made a motion to create the services board, the cities and townships in the region would need to come to some kind of consensus and then it would need approval from the province.

He said he would be willing to talk about his ideas with the province, but he wants to also get public input before doing so.

The province has said it will be reviewing regional governments in the coming months. Because of that, there has been chatter online and in local media about the possibility of amalgamation of the cities into one.

It's an idea Ermeta rejects.

"If amalgamation is imposed on the region, I will strongly look at getting Cambridge out of the region," he said. "We do not want to amalgamate with Kitchener-Waterloo."


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