Changes needed at County

November 17, 2017   ·   0 Comments

PERHAPS AS A PERFECT reflection of its residents’ traditional support of the Conservative party, Dufferin County has always been disinclined to keep up with the changing times.

While all its neighbours have merged their local municipalities to the point where places like Alliston, Caledon East, Fergus and Dundalk no longer exist as individual municipalities, the only merger that has taken place in Dufferin has been between Grand Valley and East Luther.

At the same time, representation on County Council has been fossilized, to the point where  Amaranth Township, with a population of 4,000, has the same number of county councillors as Orangeville, with 30,000 residents. The only significant change since the county was formed in 1881 is that the towns now send their mayors to council sessions instead of just their reeves and deputy reeves.

We don’t know, but suspect, that Dufferin is the only county in Ontario where individual councillors have more than one vote, so as to offset partially the absurdity of local municipalities having a maximum representation  of two members on council.

As we see it, something that should happen before next October’s municipal election is a structural change that would at long last reflect the fact that Dufferin is no longer an overwhelmingly rural county.

As matters stand, County Council has 13 members, with the two urban towns (Orangeville and Shelburne) having just four of the 13 seats despite having a combined population of roughly 39,000, compared with about 22,000 in the other six municipalities.

The current rural domination at the council chamber is further illustrated by the fact that the mixed urban/rural Town of Mono has a five-member council, none of whom represent the 6,000 or so residents of its urban subdivisions.

As we see it, the time has come for County Council membership to at least come close to reflecting the reality of a changing population base.

Is there really any valid argument to be made against Orangeville having at least five seats at County Council, with Mono, Shelburne and perhaps Amaranth continuing to have two each and Grand Valley, Melancthon, Mulmur and East Garafraxa one apiece, for a total of 15 members?

Then there’s the issue of county vs. local municipal services.

As we see it, thye time has come for serious thought to be given to having police, fire, recreational and library services all provided at the county level.

Although Orangeville and Shelburne both have excellent police services and the Ontario Provincial Police try to provide good service within the other local municipalities, a County police force would eliminate the current jurisdictional overlaps and leave the OPP with a continuing responsibility for enforcing traffic laws on the local provincial highways.

Similarly, a county fire service would result in more equitable financing and make it a lot easier to finance a new fire station for the Orangeville area.

The same could surely be said for the areas of library and recreational services.

One of the strange current realities is that the Town of Mono, with a population likely to reach 10,000 in the near future, has a dearth of recreational facilities, lacking a local arena or swimming pool. One consequence of all the county’s recreational facilities being in Orangeville, Shelburne and Grand Valley is that there are recurrent battles over how residents of the other municipalities should be allowed to enjoy those facilities, as well as whether payment should be made by the users or their own municipalities.

As we see it, provision of such services at the county level should result in some cost savings while spreading all the costs more equitably within Dufferin’s steadily growing population.

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