Gore Bay council opposes forced amalgamation of municipalities

GORE BAY – Gore Bay town council agrees with another Ontario town that amalgamation should not be forced by the province on any municipality.
A letter sent jointly by the Town of Penetanguishene, Township of Tay and Township of Tiny and considered by Gore Bay council at a meeting last week indicates they are opposed to the province imposing amalgamations, and indicated there is no evidence that amalgamation has been a benefit to municipalities that have gone through this process. 

Mayor Dan Osborne said the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (which amalgamated Little Current and Howland previously) would indicate they are in favour of the amalgamation. “But you have to have to look at this issue from all angles, and the flip side would be if the government (Ontario) decided all of Manitoulin Island should amalgamate, I wouldn’t be in favour of this at all.”

It was noted by Stasia Carr, Gore Bay assistant clerk that Penetanguishene council and the others don’t want the province to make the decision on amalgamations.

“Maybe this is something we should support, we don’t want to be forced into amalgamation,” stated Councillor Aaron Wright.

“You’re suggesting amalgamation should not be forced,” said Councillor Ken Blodgett.

Mayor Osborne said in the case of some municipalities amalgamation was positive, but in other cases it has proven to not be. “They (Penetanguishene) just don’t want amalgamation to be forced by the province and they want people to be able to decide if they want to amalgamate.”

The joint letter from Penetanguishene, Tay and Tiny pertains to the government’s consideration regarding the regional governance review. “At its September 25, 2019 council meeting, Council of the Town of Penetanguishene, and at the request of McKellar, adopted the following resolution,” which states in part, “there are 444 municipalities in Ontario that are very efficient and well governed, and who respond quickly to ratepayers’ needs. In the 1990s the Conservative government forced many municipalities to amalgamate on the guise they would become more efficient, effective, save money, lower taxes and ultimately reduce the provincial deficit; however, there has never been a valid evidence based-study that supported these outcomes. … forced amalgamation actually accomplished just the opposite—ill feelings, increased animosity and mistrust, job losses, rise in local taxes and an increase in the provincial deficit.” It was pointed out there are many positive examples of small rural and Northern municipalities working together in a collaborate and cooperative manner via shared agreements that respond to local needs without amalgamation and provincial interference; and noted, “the provincial government has a large deficit due to their own decision-making.”

The Penetanguishene motion also points out the present provincial government recently reduced one large regional municipal government by 50 percent, without consultation, and is reviewing other provincial regional governments through a ‘purported consultative approach’ with a view to reduce or eliminate them. “The provincial government should investigate all other internal ways of reducing their deficit and becoming more fiscally responsible over time rather than downloading to the one level of government that is the most efficient, has the lowest cost and is closest to the electorate which will not put a dent in the provincial deficit.”

“And whereas the province could look at what other provinces have done to reduce the debit with one singular education system, organizing unorganized municipalities, controlling OPP costs, substantially increase fines, and find a way to collect millions and millions of dollars in unpaid fines and instead, invest in the north to create jobs and stimulate and enhance economic development,” the motion reads. “Now therefore be it resolved that before the provincial government forces amalgamation in any of the 444 municipalities in Ontario, our AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) organization go beyond requesting consultation and demand that the provincial government do the following: hold a referendum letting the citizens decide to amalgamate or not; conduct an evidence-based study to show that amalgamation actually saves costs, jobs, lowers taxes and reduce the provincial deficit; allow those municipalities to work out their own local collaborative agreement that best suit their local needs and to be permitted to do so on their own time line and volition; to ensure that there is absolutely no conflict of interest in this consultative process; to emphasize the political reality of forcing amalgamation on the many rural and northern municipalities across Ontario. 

“I don’t think they (municipalities) should be forced (into amalgamation) either,” said Gore Bay councillor Leeanne Woestenenk. “I agree this shouldn’t be forced by the government,” noting she is in support of the motion by Penetanguishene.

Councillor Ken Blodgett said he was in favour of the motion as well. 

Council passed a motion in support of the motion by Penetanguishene and the other municipalities, opposing forced amalgamation, and notifying the Premier’s office of its motion.