/Councillors in favour of review of municipal governance

Councillors in favour of review of municipal governance

By Jenn Watt

Published Jan. 24, 2019


representatives say a review needs to be done of the way Haliburton
County’s two-tier government and services work, and that people should
keep an open mind about what the outcome of that process will be.


week, the province announced a review of more than 80 municipalities,
with an advisory body providing expert advice to the Minister of
Municipal Affairs and Housing. Recommendations are to focus on municipal
governance, decision-making and service delivery. 

County is not involved in the review, however, local politicians say it
would be prudent to examine how the county and the four lower-tier
municipal governments are run. 


Danielsen, county warden and Algonquin Highlands deputy mayor, said she
recently attended a meeting of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and
the consensus is that everyone needs to help out and reduce costs. 

While not actually mandated by the province, we were encouraged to have
discussions on how to seek efficiencies wherever we can, form alliances
or partnerships with neighbouring municipalities or counties and find
better ways of doing business rather than heading straight into
‘amalgamation’ discussions which doesn’t seem to be something the
province is contemplating for small rural areas,” Danielsen told the
Times via email.

The outcome of the
provincial reviews could help inform Haliburton County’s process, she
said. County council will soon be discussing priorities for the year.  

conversations are taking place at staff levels on how to achieve
efficiencies and work more collaboratively. There are numerous reports
suggesting that amalgamation does not result in cost savings and, at the
same time, there are examples of partnerships that have been very
successful,” she said. 


Carol Moffatt,
Algonquin Highlands mayor, said she had also found through her research
that amalgamation doesn’t always bring cost savings. 

fact, many amalgamations have negatively affected representation,
responsiveness and access to government; have increased staffing levels
and have had little effect on operations,” she said in an email. 

also talked to an awful lot of people about this and the common thread
in those conversations isn’t necessarily amalgamation but efficiency:
similarities across jurisdictions (bylaws), less onerous processes
(forms, fees), and consolidation of certain services (fire). We need to
examine what would be gained, lost and absorbed in a full amalgamation
and then weigh those against what we want to be as a community.”

said she didn’t have a firm position on a model of government, but was
open to having an “informed discussion” about it. She said she’d like to
see an unbiased third party undertake the review with public

“I see the premise of this
process is being who and what we want to be and how best to achieve
that. Maybe it’s amalgamation and maybe it isn’t but one thing is for
certain: Haliburton County is changing quickly and a macro discussion
needs to happen. There are myriad reasons to firmly craft our own future
and I look forward to working with my colleagues on how it unfolds,”
she said.


Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said he wasn’t surprised the provincial PC government was undertaking the review. 

the announcement last week of these regions and one of our closest
neighbours [the District of Muskoka] to come under review in this regard
comes as no surprise, either,” he said in an interview. “I think
philosophically … they would like to simplify government both in terms
of scale and numerically. It seems consistent with their philosophy.” 

He said these reviews could be the first of many.

think it’s started with some regions that are a bit larger than ours, I
fully suspect at some point the same type of analysis will go across a
number of municipalities in Ontario, including ones that are potentially
of our scale,” he said.

Devolin said he would like to see county council take the first steps in the process of a “critical self analysis” in 2019.

think the time for analysis is now. I think we can have a
made-in-Haliburton outcome. And that that’s far preferable from any
government, including this one, to come along at a certain point [and]
they impose their remedy or fix for it.”


et al Mayor Andrea Roberts agreed with her colleagues that a discussion
about efficiency needed to happen, though cautioned that amalgamation
wasn’t the only possible outcome. 

Roberts said it was best that county council begin the conversation themselves. 

one wants to be forced into it if it isn’t what we want, but it would
be best to be proactive now and start our own conversation. We know our
community best,” she said via email.

envisioned a task force set up by the county including councillors and
experts who could examine the facts and look at an implementation plan. 


Deputy Mayor Patrick Kennedy said he was in favour of finding cost
savings and improving services, but didn’t think one tier was always the
best solution. 

“The argument in favour
of moving to single tier is that services delivered by one, larger body
will provide greater value for money for residents and more efficient
public services. Many research papers have found that not to be the
case, in fact some have become more expensive,” Kennedy said in response
to questions by email.

Kennedy said he
envisioned the process to start with hiring a consultant to review the
current situation, reporting back to council, which would then have a
conversation about next steps, which could include new roles for upper
and lower tiers or a move to one tier.