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Province knocks down amalgamation debate

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Ontario municipalities looking to de-amalgamate shouldn’t seek any help from the provincial government.

May Nazar, communications official for the Minster of Municipal Affairs Linda Jeffrey, stated in an email the Municipal Act doesn’t allow for de-amalgamation.

“It would result in an increase in the number of municipalities,” stated Nazar.

In addition, de-amalgamation isn’t even being considered among the top issues for the Liberal government to act on, Nazar stated.

“Restructuring is not a priority for this government,” Nazar stated.

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina said during a news conference earlier this month he wants to ask the provincial government to reviewHamilton’s amalgamation process. Citing a research paper produced by an associate professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, which revealed that amalgamations of Ontario municipalities has resulted in more bureaucracy and higher costs, Bratina wanted the province to examine the impact of amalgamation on the city.

“There may also be some way of relieving the costs that were brought in the amalgamation process,” he said.

Nazar stated, though, that the minister did leave the restructuring door ajar, if a proposal is “supported by the local councils, demonstrate fiscal self-sustainability for each municipality and demonstrate property tax fairness for all residents.”

Still, if a municipality did consider de-amalgamation, there is no provincial money available to assist in any restructuring process, Nazar stated.

The chair of the Committee to Free Flamborough, Roman Sarachman, says de-amalgamation sentiment continues to grow inHamiltonand across the province even after 14 years. He said taxes remain high, services are not as good as before, and politicians are overwhelmed with the decisions they have to make. Other municipalities in the province are also starting to question their own amalgamations, he said.

CFF has being circulating a petition to de-amalgamate Hamilton, and Sarachman says there are about 1,000 signatures.

“It’s not going away,” said Sarachman. “Everybody is saying it’s our biggest problem.”

His group has already sent letters to Mayor Bratina, and the provincial government demanding a review of Hamilton’s amalgamation.

Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson echoed the majority of councillors’ sentiments saying the mayor’s de-amalgamation speculation was done with the fall municipal election in mind.

“It’s clearly politically motivated,” he said.

“The province has been clear before they will not consider it. I think they lobbed it back to let council kill it and certainly the majority of council won’t support it.”

Fergusonsaid he has not heard a single resident from Ancaster ask that council consider breaking up the city even though there are people in the community who remain opposed to amalgamation.

“I have received zero calls and zero emails about this issue,” said Ferguson.

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