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City hosting public meeting on review of regional government

The city will host a public meeting to allow residents to share their thoughts on the province’s review of regional government.

The Ford government has appointed two special advisors to make recommendations on the future of two-tier governments such as Durham Region.

Public consultation is underway, with feedback being accepted until April 23, 2019.

At Oshawa’s latest council meeting, Ward 3 city councillor Bradley Marks brought forth a lengthy motion regarding the review.

The motion resolved council adopt an official position of support for the existing two-tier system and voice its opposition to amalgamation with any other municipality.

Marks said the province is expecting for lower-tier municipalities to take a position on the review, and he said his motion do that clearly for Oshawa.

He also noted the Town of Whitby had adopted a similar resolution earlier this month.

Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson suggested the city should hold the public meeting before formulating an opinion.

“I would like to hear what our residents think,” he said.

He said a true review involves ‘outreach,’ allowing “everybody to make suggestions on how to improve the government and outline what their expectations are.”

Nicholson was highly critical of the province and its handling of the review.

“The current process is a political sham…they’ve offered no alternatives for us even to discuss,” he stated.

His city counterpart John Gray was in support of the public meeting but spoke out against the original intent of the motion.

Gray said the last time there was a review of regional government, council and staff performed research before taking a position and did support some amalgamation.

He warned against simply “accepting the status quo,” as he believes doing so would be a “fatal mistake.”

“We have an opportunity to see what comes forward from the province…it’s time now we look at where we are positioned, and how we should be in the future,” Gray said.

Looking at all sides of the situation is important to Ward 4 regional councillor Rick Kerr.

“Keep an open mind, consider at least the two sides to the situation, what’s to be gained and what’s to be lost,” he said.

He said municipalities want to protect their identity, but if there was amalgamation, he doesn’t believe Oshawa would simply cease to exist.

Kerr pointed to New York City, which still has its individual boroughs with unique identities.

He also noted The City of Toronto has of a population of three million represented by 25 council members, where has Durham has a cumulative population of about 600,000 with nearly 100 politicians.

“Just let that sink in for a bit,” he said.

Council eventually voted to defer Marks motion until after a public meeting is held.