“We need pas­sion­ate, com­mit­ted lead­ers who will stand up and de­fend the in­ter­ests of Water­loo Re­gion”

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page -

As the full force of hur­ri­cane Doug Ford lashes Toronto city hall, On­tar­i­ans can only won­der where this de­struc­tive po­lit­i­cal storm could land next.

Will the premier’s ob­ses­sion with lo­cal-gov­ern­ment down­siz­ing slam into other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties — Water­loo Re­gion, to name an ob­vi­ous tar­get?

We must ask the ques­tion, with this year’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion cam­paign well un­der­way.

After all, if Ford is con­vinced Toronto doesn’t need 48 elected city politi­cians in a sin­gle city hall to serve a pop­u­la­tion of 2.5 mil­lion, what will he say about Water­loo Re­gion?

With a pop­u­la­tion less than 700,000, it elects 59 mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers to run eight mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments in one of On­tario’s only re­main­ing two-tier mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

It’s time for Ford to say where he stands. The elec­toral chaos grip­ping the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal pro­vides a fright­en­ing case-study of a premier out of con­trol and cit­i­zens go­ing wild.

To­day, Ford will con­tinue his mis­guided cam­paign to slash the num­ber of Toronto wards from 47 to 25, all the while wield­ing the nasty weapon of the Charter of Right’s notwith­stand­ing clause so he can defy the judge that or­dered him to stop.

Fair minds can reach dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions about the ap­pro­pri­ate size of Toronto city coun­cil. But it’s hard to stom­ach the disruptive, high-handed process Ford is us­ing to get his way.

Hav­ing never even whis­pered about shrink­ing Toronto’s gov­ern­ment dur­ing the spring pro­vin­cial elec­tion, Ford dropped his down­siz­ing bomb­shell in the sum­mer and in the mid­dle of a mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion cam­paign in which more than 100 can­di­dates were al­ready — and in good faith — run­ning in those 47 wards.

To see Canada’s big­gest city re­duced to this mess is in­fu­ri­at­ing. But On­tario’s civil so­ci­ety would suf­fer even more if this kind of con­trived tem­pest en­gulfs other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

And it might. This week, Ford hinted he’s con­sid­er­ing down­siz­ing other city coun­cils in On­tario, men­tion­ing Ot­tawa by name.

“I’m get­ting end­less calls from the Ot­tawa re­gion,” he said. “As a mat­ter of fact, I’ve been get­ting calls all over the prov­ince.”

Have any come from Water­loo Re­gion? The mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion cam­paign al­ready be­ing con­tested in this com­mu­nity pro­vides a wel­come and vi­tal op­por­tu­nity to get ev­ery­thing out in the open.

First, we need clar­ity from the prov­ince. It must come from the premier him­self and we en­cour­age the re­gion’s three Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive MPPs to per­suade Ford to re­veal his in­ten­tions and plans, if any ex­ist.

Next, we need to know where ev­ery can­di­date in Water­loo Re­gion’s up­com­ing mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions stands on the is­sue of reform. Whether they’re run­ning for a seat on a city or town­ship coun­cil or for the re­gional gov­ern­ment, these can­di­dates must state their po­si­tion on how Water­loo Re­gion gov­erns it­self.

Do they want fewer politi­cians? Do they sup­port amal­ga­ma­tion to cre­ate a sin­gle gov­ern­ment?

Water­loo Re­gion is in a del­i­cate tran­si­tional stage in terms of eco­nomic and ur­ban growth. We can’t af­ford the kind of need­less tu­mult that’s bat­ter­ing Toronto. Nor should we tol­er­ate a new form of gov­ern­ment im­posed upon us by a premier reck­lessly rid­ing his petu­lant hobby horse.

If change is com­ing, we must first know the process that will gov­ern it.

But even be­fore that, we need pas­sion­ate, com­mit­ted lead­ers who will stand up and de­fend the in­ter­ests of Water­loo Re­gion in the face of any gale-force winds blow­ing from Queen’s Park.

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