When voters go to the municipal election polls Oct. 24, 2022, they’ll find not much has changed since they cast their ballots four years ago.
The names of people vying to represent them may have altered, but they will still be voting for 24 people, of which eight will automatically become County councillors, for a total of 32 elected officials for a County estimated to have 20,571 people over 4,000-square-kilometres.
By contrast, the City of Kawartha Lakes will again elect eight councillors for its population of about 75,000 people over 3,000 square kilometres.
The need for a governance review was discussed in the lead-up to the 2018 municipal election.
However, more than three years later, nothing has been done on that front. Instead, councillors have opted for a service delivery review, which will take until at least 2023 to complete. Some in the County, such as Glenn Evans of the Haliburton County Home Builders Association, Terry Moore of Environment Haliburton! and outspoken Minden resident Patrick Walshe think that isn’t good enough.
Nor do some County councillors, most notably Minden Hills mayor Brent Devolin. However, many others, including prominent political science professors and a number of councillors say the service delivery review must be completed first.
There can be no cart before the horse. They say its implementation may, or may not, lead to a look at governance. Examining the City of Kawartha Lakes’ forced amalgamation of 20 years ago offers some insight into what can be gained by becoming a single-tier municipality. It isn’t about cost savings. However, it’s greater efficiency with better customer service. Or so we’re told.
We have yet to see any studies that back that up. A majority of County councillors believe implementing recommendations in the service delivery review will result in cost savings and efficiencies.
It’s certainly been worth looking at what Strategy Corp. is suggesting and making changes. But the question becomes, is that going to be enough? The provincial government, for now, says it won’t force amalgamations in Ontario.
In fact, it’s the province that supplied the money for the service delivery review and is pleased it’s been spent and a report tabled. It doesn’t appear to have much interest beyond that.
We’re not hearing words such as amalgamation or annexation. The will for change – if the community wants it – will have to come from Haliburton County’s elected officials. The community needs to start asking some tough questions: is the service delivery review and its expected efficiencies and cost savings enough? Or is it time for one level of government or a hybrid model?
It’s been 20 years since the last local amalgamation created the four townships we now have. Is it time for a serious look into what governance will best suit us going into the future? We’ll be asking these questions in a series of stories that kicks off today. If you have strong opinions on the subject, email firstname.lastname@example.org