The provincial government should reduce the membership of Simcoe County council as part of its review into the regional government model, said Bradford West Gwillimbury Deputy Mayor James Leduc.
“It’s not a secret I think county council is too big at this time. There needs to be a reduction,” he said, noting 32 members is too many.
If the City of Toronto, which has a population of millions, can have its council reduced from 47 to 25 — a move brought about last fall by Premier Doug Ford — then Simcoe County, with a population expected to surpass 500,000 this year, does not need so many people on its council, Leduc said.
“It’s a good review. I believe it’s very positive,” he said.
Leduc, who lost his bid for county warden in December, ran on a platform about economic development, governance, transportation, tourism, and budgets, and he said he is not surprised the provincial government is now looking into some of those issues.
“I assumed the provincial government would probably certainly review what I talked about,” he said.
Members of BWG council are expected to meet with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference later this month to get more information on what the regional review will entail, Leduc said.
York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney said the regional review will have a “consultative approach,” with the advisors receiving information and passing it along to the government.
“We’re assessing the way services are delivered. It’s a chance to review the governance structures that have been in place for 50 years.”
The Ontario government has appointed Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling as special advisors for the review.
Fenn works for StrategyCorp, the company the Town of BWG hired to do its own structural and financial review of the town’s place within Simcoe County, which submitted a report last spring that called leaving the county to join York Region “politically improbable.”
Although Fenn did not work on that specific report, BWG Mayor Rob Keffer said he assumes he would have access to it to assist, if needed, in the provincial government’s regional review.
Keffer said the review “makes sound business sense,” and it will include interviews in early 2019 with all the mayors in each municipality involved, followed by group consultation in spring 2019.
The review will investigate nine regional governments: Simcoe County, Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, Peel, Muskoka District, and Oxford County.
The advisors are expected to give their recommendations to Clark by early summer.
“It sounds like a fairly fast-moving process. We look forward to the opportunity to be part of this review,” Keffer said, adding he plans to “put Bradford West Gwillimbury’s position forward.”
“In a fast-growing municipality, our property assessment rates have gone up,” he said, noting he wants to explain to the advisors the negative effects of that.
Fast-growing communities have needs that can be looked at by the county, he said.
“We’ll be collaborating and working with our neighbouring municipalities and the county (to) come up with some good solutions,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see. It’s still early.”