Province to review regional governments 'across the province' in the fall

The province announced plans to review regional governments 'across the province' this fall.

‘I can’t see the province dismantling’ regional government, Seiling says

The province has indicated it will be reviewing regional governments starting this fall. Region of Waterloo Chair Ken Seiling says previous reviews have strengthened the roles of counties and regions, and he suspects another review would do the same. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

The province will undertake a review of regional governments "across the province" this fall, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark says.

The announcement came Friday morning when Clark joined Premier Doug Ford for a press conference in Toronto where it was announced they are introducing the Better Local Government Act.

While none of the immediate changes announced affect Waterloo region, it will clearly be part of the fall review process.

The announcement Friday includes a series of local government reforms, which includes reducing the size of Toronto city council and reversing changes and "taking a pause" on plans to elect regional chairs in York, Peel, Niagara and Muskoka.

"The other regional governments will continue to elect their representatives as normal," Ford said during a press conference.

Clark echoed that, but said a review would be coming.

"The other more mature regional governments that were in place in Durham, Halton and Waterloo will not be impacted by these changes," Clark said.

"What we are going to do during this pause is take a long look at regional government across the province — where things have worked and where things haven't — to figure out what we can do better. We'll start this review informally in our discussions at the upcoming AMO conference and will follow up with something more formal in the fall."

Past reviews have strengthened role of region

In Waterloo region, there are currently 59 seats up for grabs in the October 22 municipal election including eight at-large regional councillors and the regional chairs. Toronto currently has 47 seats, but that will now drop to 25 in this fall's election.

Ken Seiling, who has been chair of the Region of Waterloo since 1985 and opted not to run in this October's municipal election, said he didn't hear any talk about reviewing regional municipalities during the provincial election campaign.

But he does not think a review will change the way the region operates.

"During my time, there have been a number of reviews of regional governments or county governments across the province," he said.

"What's come out of them is actually, every one of them virtually has strengthened the counties and the regions — the roles of the counties and the regions. Unless there's some political agenda afoot here, my guess is that … they might find the same sort of things," he said.

"More and more of the services that are important and are expensive are operated at the regional county level and I can't see the province dismantling that."