Oakville mayor makes case to leave Halton Region

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Published September 14, 2023 at 2:55 pm

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton believes the town will have a more efficient and effective future if it becomes a single tier municipality. TOWN OF OAKVILLE PHOTO

Ontario’s plan to review Oakville and Halton government structure to get more homes built has Mayor Rob Burton thinking it is time the town goes out on its own and leaves two-tiered regional government.

“We are now bigger and at least as accomplished as most single-tier municipalities,” states Burton in his recent newsletter. “I know Oakville will have a more efficient and effective future if we are a single-tier municipality.”

The mayor’s comments come as Queen’s Park considers the future of regional governments in Halton, Durham, Niagara, York, Simcoe and Waterloo in light of the housing crisis and how other local services are delivered. The Ontario government has already announced it will dissolve Peel Region to satisfy Mississauga’s desire to stand alone.

While initially announcing facilitators would review local government structure, Ontario has now changed course, saying a legislative committee will take on the role.

The committee will ultimately determine if two-tiered local government is best suited for creating housing and whether other services are being duplicated. In other words, Ontario wants to find out if regional governments, such as Halton Region, have outlived their usefulness.

Burlton believes the answer is apparent.

“We didn’t need a facilitator to help us know what we need for efficient and effective municipal services,” said the Oakville mayor about the entire process.

Burton, who titled his newsletter Oakville Unchained: The Case for Single-Tier Municipal Autonomy, says the town has faced the issue before when the provincial government took steps to create a City of Halton out of Oakville, Burlington, Milton, and Halton Hills.

Oakville residents, he says, came together in the campaign “We Love Oakville” to fight amalgamation plans.

“As long as we are joined with nearby municipalities of Burlington, Halton Hills, and Milton, we will continue to look as if the next logical step is to amalgamate us into a City of Halton,” writes Burton, who believes Oakville should stand on its own.

The Oakville mayor points out that before the layers of regional government were added, Oakville was able to operate independently with its own services, such as police, water and wastewater, and landfill.

“We were semi-merged to subsidize the growth of other parts of Halton that were much smaller than Oakville (back then),” writes Burton. “Those smaller parts are now just as big as Oakville was when we were ordered to help them out. Surely, they’re now mature enough to look after themselves?”

The Oakville mayor is hopeful the province will ultimately simplify municipal service delivery that was created 50 years ago to subsidize smaller municipal neighbours, as will be done with the abolition of Peel Region.

Again, using Peel as an example, Burton says facilitators or committees are not needed to make changes in how local government works.

“Ontario’s government didn’t wait for facilitators to advise how to make Peel more efficient and effective,” he says. “The Legislature passed legislation to make it happen. The Legislature is where the changes we need can be proposed, debated, and enacted in the most efficient and effective way possible.”

Now it’s Oakville’s turn.

“Let’s hope the Ontario government gets on with it,” he says.

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