Last month, Markham's Mayor, Frank Scarpitti, told MPPs he wants to see all nine lower tier municipalities in York Region abolished – Newmarket included.
In their place he wants a new mega-city, presumably headquartered in Markham and with Frank as the man in charge, with a salary and with perks to match his new responsibilities.
Scarpitti, who enjoys being the centre of attention, was giving evidence to a Committee of MPPs which has been given the job of reviewing regional governance. He tells them with a straight face he is confident the Committee’s deliberations would result in positive change.
When Scarpitti first floated his mega-city idea in June last year it got zero traction. Unsurprisingly, there was no support from his colleagues on York Regional Council and even Doug Ford ridiculed the idea.
In September the new Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Paul Calandra, asked the Provincial Parliament’s Heritage and Infrastructure Committee to take on the work of assessing regional government structures in Durham, Halton, Niagara, Simcoe, Waterloo and York.
At the same time he dropped the idea of appointing “regional facilitators” who played such a key role in Ford’s 2019 aborted reorganisation.
In making the case for his mega-city, Scarpitti tells the Committee his proposed amalgamation will save money.
“Last June, I offered my recommendation, through a public statement, to form one York, one city. In my view, the optimal outcome would be one city for York region. I’ve made this clear in the past, and it’s my view today. It’s time to consolidate all nine municipalities in York region.”
Brock University professor David Siegel says there has never been an amalgamation that has saved money for taxpayers. But Frank sees savings everywhere.
“If you want to bring about the most effective change, consolidation is needed in York region: one tax bill, one planning department, one water department, one fire department—and, as you know, we already have one police and EMS organization.”
Blink an eye
Scarpitti says Markham could absorb the Town of Whitchurch Stouffville and “we wouldn’t blink an eye”.
I’d like to know what the Town’s Mayor, Iain Lovatt, thinks about that.
Frank tells us municipalities are no different from electricity companies. He says they’ve been amalgamated and we haven’t seen any downsides. No black-outs yet.
“We know what it takes to offer excellent services. It can be done, and it can be done right. Take Alectra Utilities, for example. The merger of Enersource, PowerStream, Horizon, and Hydro One Brampton saved $310 million in operating expenses and an additional $110 million in capital…. We’ve made changes to our call centre, to our customer billing, to CRM, to be able to streamline and consolidate some of our operations. And I think that can happen at the local level with municipalities.”
On the face it it, Frank's mega-city appears to be a pipe-dream.
But who knows where Ford is going with his latest regional review?
Not even Ford himself.