Newmarket’s mayor said municipalities need to slow down with ideas of regional reform after Vaughan made a move for independence this week.
Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said York Region governance should be changed and his council agreed to explore a model to become single tier, along with all of York’s other municipalities.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said everyone is feeling “a little anxious” about the provincial government review of regional governance to come, and added these ideas need to be discussed further.
“We should take a deep breath,” Taylor said. “I think, generally speaking, the two-tier structure serves us well.”
The move from Vaughan comes a week after Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti posted a letter asking the province to amalgamate all the lower-tier municipalities in York Region into a mega city, something outright opposed by Taylor and several other regional mayors.
The province had said it will soon appoint regional facilitators to examine regional governance. After dissolving Peel Region last month, the province suggested a similar thing could happen to York and other regions under examination.
The Vaughan resolution seeking to become independent points at issues such as the city contributing the highest portion of tax revenue to the region. However, the city acknowledged they would still need to collaborate on some services with pooled resources, such as paramedics, police and transit.
“Vaughan is not the smallest of the nine. We are, in many ways, the biggest and the strongest,” Del Duca told his council June 21, adding he hopes the resolution ensures “staff will be empowered to work with us to come up with all of the information council will need at its disposal over the next number of months.”
Taylor said that review could find efficiencies and lead to possible changes in responsibilities between the region and municipality. But he suggested that Vaughan’s recognition of the need to collaborate on some shared services is what the region is already doing.
“I’m happy to look at that in co-operation,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to enter an exercise that is going to involve two or three years of massive restructuring, and as I’ve called it before, navel-gazing, when we have very significant issues and challenges in our communities.”
Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas said Vaughan’s suggestion is an idea he is open to, after outright opposing Scarpitti’s proposal last week.
“However,” Mrakas added. “it's crucial that we preserve our shared services to ensure top-quality services for our residents. This is just one option among many that we, as mayors, need to discuss with the facilitator during the review process.”
Whitchurch-Stouffvle Mayor Iain Lovatt said he agrees with Del Duca that the region needs to modernize but added he is less sure Whitchurch-Stouffville could financially exist as a single-tier municipality as opposed to a larger city like Vaughan.
“Our council and staff would need to fully examine the feasibility,” he said. “I am certainly open to investigating all options that would be in the best interest of Stouffville residents. I welcome the provincial facilitator’s input through the process.”
Regardless, Taylor said there are many more pressing issues than regional governance, like housing, homelessness and infrastructure.
“I would encourage everybody to look at a streamlining process for any changes and to keep our eye on the ball,” he said.