While talking about Women’s Municipal Campaign School, I mentioned my reasons for not supporting amalgamation of Waterloo Region,even though I’m a Regional Councillor and think the Region does a good job. Will be in paper tomorrow. Here is why from my speech.
When people talk about one regional government or amalgamating cities, we all need to think what that means. I know as a regional councillor that we are a good council BUT, less local politicians mean less power for citizens. Amalgamation means less chance for different voices to be heard at the council table. Running regionally is more expensive than a ward. It is hard to unseat an incumbent, assuming you want to. Lots of politicians give citizens more access to their councillors.
Less power for school boards the last few years when they lost the ability to raise taxes, means less power for parents. Citizen councils and parents councils are fine as advisory but they don’t have power.
It is business people who are pushing amalgamation, overwhelmingly middle aged white men. Business is fine, but companies are not run as democracies. So I believe, being a business owner myself, that business people can find democracy frustrating because it is slow,it gets tangled in red tape at times, it consults. A good democracy doesn’t make decisions suddenly and move quickly most times. Government is forever with the winning and losing politicians moving in and out of office while the programs go on. Business can move quickly and do wonderful things but it can also fail spectacularly in the market place, as we have recently seen. Democratic Government is there to pick up the pieces and to listen to the people.
It will not be cheaper to have amalgamation. Yes a few less politicians and CEOs but other amalgamations have shown that overall, wages rise to the highest common denominator and there will still be a need for branch offices in the cities, deputy fire and police chiefs, etc.
We can cut red tape by having staff work together, which they already are, to do things like making the rules the same for all. We already have joint library catalog access for the public libraries for instance.
I’m even more against the amalgamation of Kitchener and Waterloo because, frankly if you are going to go that way,we should amalgamate regionally.
Sadly, I doubt I will get any support for my thesis because people are cynical about politicians. They forget that we are their representatives and they have a vote to vote us in or out. The alternative is dictatorship.
P.S. I am for one water system, though. On record for that in a previous post I believe.
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Just one quick thought that I’d like to pass along. In any version of a larger municipality, I’d expect to see councillors elected in a ward. Maybe even two per ward. And maybe to make regional council more visible and accountable even in it present format that should occur too.