Ontario asking for public input into regional government review

The province is setting up an online form for people who live in the 82 upper and lower municipalities currently involved in a regional government review.

People living in areas under review asked to fill out online form

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark has announced people who live in areas currently under the province's regional government review can provide feedback online until April 23. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

People whose municipalities are part of Ontario's regional government review are being asked to share their thoughts about what they want to see change — or stay the same — with their local governments in an online consultation.

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

The province says a new online form will allow people to offer opinions on how to improve the local two-tier government system when it comes to local governance, decision-making and service delivery.

Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced the public consultation on Wednesday.

On the website for the online consultation, the province says the reason for the review is to make sure the local governments "are efficient and accountable" to the people who live there.

Online consultations will be accepted until April 23.

"We all felt very strongly that we needed to make a commitment for people who live and work in those 82 upper-lower municipalities and we felt that the online version was the best way to do so," Clark said.

Special advisers to review online submissions

The province has two special advisers, former deputy minister and municipal chief administrator Michael Fenn and former Region of Waterloo chair Ken Seiling, who are currently meeting with municipalities and other stakeholders. They will also assess the feedback from the online consultation.

"We're received a number of correspondence items already, directly to myself and to the advisers, but we feel the process will be fair and allow people to have their say," Clark said in an interview.

Seiling and Fenn are expected to provide a report to 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 as of yet.

Under former PC premier Mike Harris, Ontario amalgamated some local governments ranging from Kawartha Lakes to Toronto in a similar bid to improve efficiency, though the decision to do so has been criticized and questioned.

In-person consults encouraged

Regional Chair Karen Redman and the mayors of the three cities and four townships in Waterloo region issued a joint statement welcoming the online public consulation.

"We have previously encouraged the provincial government to provide ample opportunities for broad input to the review process. We are encouraged to see that they are launching this next step in the process," the group said in the statement.

The statement says they'd also encourage the province to consider an in-person input process.

"We encourage everyone to take full advantage of these opportunities to provide input into the process," the statement said.

'Battle to save Cambridge'

Cambridge, Ont., Coun. Nicholas Ermeta claimed last week it was his understanding the report was completed, on Clark's desk and recommendations from it could be expected as early as June.

Ermeta, who is against Cambridge amalgamating with Kitchener and Waterloo, wrote to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo and said, "The battle to save Cambridge is on."

Clark called Ermeta's claim "absolutely false."

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


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