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