Brock University Policy Brief Explores Governance Options For Niagara Municipalities
The brief argues that past amalgamations have not saved costs or reduced taxes, but there are reasons other than cost savings why area municipalities might wish to merge.
News from Brock University in St. Catharines/Niagara
Posted March 28th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
To merge or not to merge? That is one of the many questions Niagara and eight other Ontario regions will be grappling with as the province studies how to make municipalities more efficient.
Two advisors appointed by the Ontario government are addressing nine questions related to how decisions are being made, and services being delivered, in two-tier systems. Residents have been asked to provide feedback by April 23, and the advisors’ report is expected to be submitted early this summer.
To help Niagara navigate the issues, Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) has released its policy brief, Under the Knife & Under the Gun: An Overview of Regional Government in Niagara.
“The purpose of the brief is to provide factual information to inform the discussion on this important issue,” says David Siegel, Professor of Political Science and author of the policy brief.
Niagara’s 13 municipalities elect 126 councillors, a number that many have criticized as being too high. Although the brief doesn’t endorse a particular system or number of representatives, it warns “too many councillors frustrate meaningful discussion around the council table; too few councillors weaken citizen access to councillors.”
It also cautions against making councils too small, as that would reduce diversity of gender, race, ethnic background and other characteristics.
On the issue of service delivery, the brief says service duplication isn’t generally a problem in Niagara, as most key services such as police, social services, fire and recreation are clearly distributed between Niagara Region and area municipalities.
Areas that are shared between the two jurisdictions include economic development, planning, public transit and roads.
The policy brief wraps up with the ‘elephant in the room,’ amalgamation. The brief argues that past amalgamations have not saved costs or reduced taxes, but there are reasons other than cost savings why area municipalities might wish to merge.
“Ultimately, this policy brief and the discussions following from it are aimed at positioning the Niagara community to potentially influence the direction of governance reforms,” says NCO Director Charles Conteh.
“We hope to provide a platform for separating facts from fiction in envisioning a governance reform that is tailored to the needs of the region,” he says.
Siegel and others from the NCO will be holding a workshop at Brock University April 16 to discuss the brief and possible ways forward for Niagara.
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