Let us count the ways
By Chad Ingram
Published Dec. 6, 2018
This week new municipal councils across Haliburton County are getting sworn in, as a fresh council term gets underway. There are a lot of councillors in Haliburton County – too many – and the absolute No. 1 priority of the new term should be the establishment of single-tier governance.
Between the townships of Minden Hills and Dysart et al, which each have seven-member councils, and Algonquin Highlands and Highlands East, which each have five-member councils, there are 24 individual councillors in Haliburton County. Factor in the upper-tier council – which, comprised of the mayors and deputy mayors of each township, has eight seats – and there are 32 council seats in Haliburton County. The county’s year-round population is approximately 18,000.
Let’s put that in perspective. The City of Ottawa has a population of nearly a million people, and has a 24-member council. The City of Mississauga, with a population of more than 720,000, has a 12-member council. Brampton: nearly 600,000 people, 11 council seats. The City of Kawartha Lakes, with a population of nearly 100,000, has adopted a nine-member council. You get the picture.
Oh, and let’s not forget that, abruptly, the City of Toronto, the most populous city in the country, and the fourth most populous city in North America, now has a council of 25 members. The year-round population of Haliburton County can’t fill up half the Rogers Centre. In fact, it would basically take year-round and seasonal folks combined for us to pack that place for a Jays’ game.
Starting this week, the four new lower-tier councils of Haliburton County will begin discussions on the same topics – landfills, septic inspections, short-term rentals, official plans, etc., etc.. etc. An exercise in redundancy, sometimes they will come to the same conclusions, sometimes they will not. Sometimes they will create similar bylaws, sometimes they will not, contributing to the ongoing patchwork of inconsistent policy throughout the County of Haliburton.
As I’ve written before in this space, the largest benefit of amalgamation would not be financial savings, it would be consistency and efficiency. The current framework is redundant, inefficient and archaic. How long do you think it will be permitted to go on?
As Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin has said over and over, and as Premier Ford’s actions in Toronto demonstrate, if the county does not create a more effective governance model for itself, then one will almost certainly be imposed on it. It’s just a matter of when.
One of the very first acts of the new Haliburton County council should be the striking of an amalgamation task force, and finding the right people to conduct a study on and plan for creating a single tier.