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Amalgamation Didn’t Shrink Size of Municipal Governments

The number of municipal workers in Ontario grew from 160,000 to about 270,000 today.

Remember the last time the Progressive Conservatives were in charge at Queen's park?  The Common Sense Revolution was first fostered by Mike Harris and then briefly by Ernie Eves.

Harris vowed to save taxpayers a quarter of a billion dollars through municipal amalgamation.   Here in Toronto it meant the end of Metro government and turning the five boroughs into one city with one mayor, one council etc.

Some new research by political science professor, Timothy Cobban, and his team at Western University shows that overall amalgamation did not reduce the size of municipal government.

 It meant fewer municipalities yes and fewer elected politicians, but since 1995 when Mike Harris began his pitch, the number of municipal workers in Ontario grew from 160,000 to about 270,000 today and of course the cost has gone up too.

The team out of Western University looked at Statistics Canada numbers for the 15 years prior to amalgamation and after in order to determine the impact the Harris government’s plan made.

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  1. Frankie posted on 01/13/2014 09:29 AM
    Why would we expect it to when the system is run by self-serving councillors who don't care about saving taxpayer money, and civic staff whose self-interest is in growing bureaucracy.

    The only way to make it work is to have an overseer whose mandate is to create efficient government, taking those decisions away from the perpetrators of bloated government.
    1. Martin posted on 01/15/2014 01:35 AM
      @Frankie What does that have to do with amalgamation? Are councillors more self-serving because of amalgamation? Do civic staff want to grow bureaucracy more because of amalgamation? Your pre-formulated reply straight out of the Libertarians' Guidebook to Whining About Big Government doesn't explain anything.
  2. Angry Bill posted on 01/13/2014 10:19 AM
    Harris and Eves had the right idea.. unfortunately, it was doomed from the start. Because no one was interested in saving anyone any money, they were just interested in saving their little empire and making it grow. Ford also had the right idea, with his stop the gravy train slogan. The funny part of that is, the socialists on city council will look you in the face and claim there isn't any gravy. Everything they have is all necessary. And in fact, they need more. To, you know, like, serve the people better and give them better services.

    This is why Ford will never win with his agenda, and neither will anyone else with a similar agenda. Because if you peeve off the socialist city council enough, well then, they'll just limit the mayor's powers, and bypass having to deal with him in the first place. Never mind that's who the voters put into power in the first place.. The voters didn't put someone into power just to have the socialist city council circumvent the people's will. Can you imagine if that had happened to one of the socialists' people? Like say, Olivia Chow? They'd have a revolution and cry that democracy was dead. But when they do it to Ford, well, it's all right.

    And I'm not even necessarily on board with Ford.. It's just that the irony of all this is not lost upon me.

    You voted the guy in, live with it. We lived with it when you voted Miller in. Twice. Well, I didn't.. I left Toronto under Miller. Wanna know something funny? For Christmas, my wife (bless her) thought it would be a good idea to get me a symbolic adoption certificate from the WWF for a kermode bear. I love nature and wildlife, so it was a great gesture. However, there's David Miller's signature down at the bottom of that certificate.. Just can't get away from the guy.... :-/
    1. Karl Burgin posted on 01/13/2014 01:13 PM
      @Angry Bill Guy, what are you doing writing here....you should really be down at city hall, trying to get this message across.
      Your posting is golden- and VERY true.

      That is the crux of the story that no one, especially the Ford-haters, who can't seem to get beyond the emotional aspect they have against the mayor.

      The only way Ford can get his agenda across (should be be re-elected), is to change 90% of those in council during election time. People lluuuuvvvvv to give the excuse that Ford is a thug, and a real leader is what's needed to be able to work with the council. That is not true. And if people think that Tory would do any better, you had had better wake up. Unfortunately, Tory would do a lot worse. If it were one or two Councillors Tory would have to deal with, he would have a shot. But when you have 90% of them that think along the lines of Miller/Chow, Tory isn't strong enough to shoulder that- and Tory will eventually (and unfortunately probably quickly) bend to their will by the time they're through with him as mayor.

      City Hall needs a makeover from within- and it starts with cutting council in half. And next, for those that remain, either they get with the new program, or get out.
    2. Angry Bill posted on 01/13/2014 02:52 PM
      @Karl Burgin Thanks, Karl.

      Unfortunately, council will not shrink in size in the foreseeable future. In order for that to happen, council would have to vote themselves out of a job. Well, half of them, anyway. Or, the province would need to enact legislation limiting the size of Toronto city council... and since the Ontario liberals' entire voting base is in the 416, I really don't think that's going to happen.

      Bottom line... we're stuck with dysfunction. My advice is to give up caring, grab some popcorn, and watch the show.
  3. KarenW_5 posted on 01/13/2014 10:37 AM
    Amalgamation didn't work because each borough had to keep everyone in place, there is duplication of services, management and buildings. Have they sold the "city halls" from the post amalgamated boroughs yet? Doubt it. I agree with Frankie. Time to put someone in charge who has the balls to stand up to the antis and cut, cut, cut. I bet we'd find more than the 2 billion needed to fund the transit, plus, plus, plus.
    1. Martin posted on 01/15/2014 02:17 AM
      @KarenW_5 If cuts are the solution, why aren;t they working?
      Ford quietly cut the progress on the Gardiner as soon as he was elected, then resumed it in 2012 when it started crumbling on cars.
      He cut 1.6M from the tree maintenance budget over two years. How much do you think the uncontrolled growth increased the $114M cleanup cost?
      He cut the LRT project for a projected cost of nearly $100M (and replaced it with another stubway for an extra $1B, which won't START for another 5 years)!
      Staff is at a record low, revenue and reserve funds have flatlined. All this in the context of a city with a widely acknowledged 30 year backlog in infrastructure. He hasn't cut $1B in gravy as he repeats endlessly, he's cut about $150M per year in needed services.
      Miller managed to find that much saving (I think in his last year) while growing the reserve fund and rebuilding the city. He had his flaws, but all the construction and projects under way now are thanks to him, not Ford. This includes suburban LRTs, priority neighbourhoods, UP Express, Pan Am games, you name it.
      Your wishful thinking of $2B in cuts would destroy the city. We have the lowest tax rate of the region. What Toronto needs aren't cuts but citizens like you to grow a pair and pay up for their share of city building.
      Or, go live in Detroit if cheap is what makes you horny.
    2. KarenW_5 posted on 01/15/2014 09:39 AM
      @Martin You hit the nail on the head with your comment about "lowest tax rate of the region" . Maybe if the property taxes were increased to a proper level, Toronto would have the money needed to take care of their infrastructure. I don't live in the city of Toronto but it doesn't take a moron to see where the money is wasted. Too much upper and middle management and pet projects in all levels of government. Amalgamation was supposed to cut that down but no, they kept everyone and everything from each borough.
  4. Arty posted on 01/13/2014 10:58 AM
    all the good reason never to listen to progressive conservatives.
    In the end they always mess things up even worse
    1. Angry Bill posted on 01/13/2014 11:10 AM
      @Arty So you're saying to not listen to good ideas, because the socialists and liberals will just ignore them, and do what they want anyway? Like, increasing bloat, and continue their self-serving practices?
  5. frankie posted on 01/13/2014 11:31 AM
    Statscan 2011 reports that Ontario has 6.8M private sector workers and 1.33M public sector workers at all levels. When will the taxpayers stand up and demand a 30% cut so we can regain our own money and invest it in the economy to create jobs, quality of life, goods and efficiency in gov.? The status quo is ridiculous and is robbing Ontarians of opportunities.
  6. Frankie posted on 01/13/2014 02:05 PM
    Another example of the "gravy train" Ford has been talking about.
  7. Jack posted on 01/13/2014 06:58 PM
    Step one to a smaller, better public service is to outlaw their unions and start handing out pink slips to underperforming and redundant employees. I was outside College Park on Saturday and saw a construction crew "at work"; tell me, in what world does it take six people, not including the driver, to back a truck into a laneway?
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