Advisers hear 22 speakers talk about regional government review

Ontario's special advisers overseeing the regional municipal government review met with people in Kitchener Wednesday to hear opinions on the future of the Region of Waterloo.

Provincial meeting with special advisers held in Waterloo region Wednesday

Ken Seiling, left, and Michael Fenn are the special advisers conducting a regional government review for the province. They were in Kitchener on Wednesday to hear from community members. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A total of 22 people signed up to speak with the province's special advisers conducting a review of regional governance  in Waterloo region on Wednesday.

The province's special advisers leading the review — former deputy minister and municipal chief administrator Michael Fenn and former Region of Waterloo chair Ken Seiling — allowed individuals five minutes to present their thoughts. Organizations each had 10 minutes.

The province is currently conducting a municipal government review of 82 upper and lower municipalities: Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, Peel, Muskoka District, Oxford County and the County of Simcoe.

Some support, some not

Some people, such as researcher Kate Daley, told the advisers she supports the current two-tier governance model in the region.

"One of the things we need to make sure to tell them about is all the success that we're having here," Daley said.

Others, like Ginny Dybenko, argued for amalgamation into a one-tier government. She's with the group Barn Raisers, which helps businesses and governments streamline their planning and problem solving.

"Waterloo region needs to be allowed to take this opportunity to start the transition to a unified one-tier municipal governance model," she urged.

Questions not leading

At the outset of the meeting, Fenn said they'd ask people questions, but he didn't want them to think the questions meant he and Seiling were leaning one way or another.

"One of the concerns we have is that if we ask any question, somebody will say, 'Oh, I know what they're going to do. They wouldn't be asking that question if they hadn't decided to do x, y z,'" Fenn told CBC. 

"If you say something is green, we might ask why it isn't red. If you say something's red, we might ask why it isn't green," he added. "We're just trying to explore the point of view and see whether there's an aspect to it that we didn't understand."

Review timeline

People can comment to the advisers through an online form until May 21, or preregister to speak at one of the meetings being held in each municipality over the next month.

Seiling and Fenn have been meeting with officials from the municipalities since mid-January. They are expected to prepare a report for Clark this summer.

The province has not ruled out the possibility that some municipalities could be amalgamated, although Clark has said the province has made no decisions.

"There is no report on my desk. There is no preconceived conclusions for this," Clark said in an interview in March. "We want people to feel free to give us their comments."


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