The future of Regional government in Niagara will be formally discussed by council in the coming months. Better late than never? Many dollars and many years later a discussion that more properly should have been held in the 1900s will happen. Maybe.
One mega-city of Niagara – three cities of manageable size – or the status quo two tiers of municipal government are the most often touted choices.
Today no self-respecting bookie would give you odds on the outcome. If history repeats nothing of consequence will take place because there is no visible political will to change and Premier Dalton McGuinty appears to think Ontario stops at Hamilton. This diverse little peninsula merits very little attention from Queens Park until somebody dies.
People on the street, who pay the bills, have little or no knowledge of the mission, structure or reason for Regional Niagara. Many don’t know who or how many people represent Niagara Falls at that address or what the region provides for them. Communication has always been an issue for regional councils.
Very few know how much the Regional administration costs or that we pay for another layer of municipal administration at the local level. The history of bigger and better should remind us of a few such ventures that are either very ho hum or very very painful.
Merging health care facilities and services has been very unhappy for almost everyone from health professionals to clients and it has been costly. The education merger resulted in the province taking over every decision of magnitude from funding formulas to curriculum. School boards have very little wiggle room and there is no proof that bigger has been better. Two tiers of local administration have to cost money which might be better spent.
Some people are so disenchanted by all these mergers and amalgamations that they don’t even vote any more.
There isn’t a lot of respect for government and not much confidence that government in all its many forms cares about the people who pay. Many feel they are patted on the head and then ignored. If we have failed to make a case for smaller more humane health care we have no hope of changing municipal government.
No body has asked us for an opinion and many of us don’t have one anyway. Maybe we need our own expert. Maybe it is time to visit the ombudsman or the provincial auditor general. We have paid an awful lot for questionable health care and for municipal administration. All the layers of bureaucracy have failed to keep us warm and comfortable.
Is it possible to recall this quote from someone who enjoyed some success as a leader:
“Government should only do for people what they cannot do better for themselves and no more.” – Abraham Lincoln.