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Ford government’s regional review could be a good thing — or a very bad thing

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Beware provincial Tories looking to help. If you’re a municipality, it’s a hard-learned lesson based on experience. And one that was top of mind on Tuesday when Doug Ford’s government announced the prospect of reshuffling of the regional governance system in the GTA and across the province.

Maybe the system could use some tweaking. Or more than tweaking. For instance, perhaps Mississauga, the sixth largest city in Canada and third largest in the province, has outgrown its place as subservient to the Peel Regional government, as Mayor Bonnie Crombie often argues.

Months after Premier Doug Ford's government upended the Toronto election, Ontario mayors cited that Tuesday as an example of how not to undertake municipal reform.
Months after Premier Doug Ford’s government upended the Toronto election, Ontario mayors cited that Tuesday as an example of how not to undertake municipal reform.  (Metroland file photo)

Perhaps there could be some standardization of how regional governments and regional chairs are elected. Perhaps, though it appears to be outside the purview of this review, the whole Greater Toronto and Hamilton area — even the greater Golden Horseshoe — could use some more formal regional co-ordination of files like planning transit and housing (as was first proposed almost 25 years ago by a task force led by Anne Golden).

Perhaps.

But then you have experience.

Read more:

Ontario mayors greet regional reform news with excitement, dread

Mississauga and Brampton mayors respond to provincial review of regional governments

Regional amalgamation creates ‘turmoil’ and isn’t efficient, Durham politicians say

It’s been two decades since Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservative government forced the amalgamation of the six municipalities that made up Metropolitan Toronto into the city we know today — alongside companion amalgamations of school boards, and a shuffling of which level of government pays for and delivers a host of essential services. It was a disaster. It was unpopular and locally opposed at the time, and it’s little exaggeration to say digging out from under the rubble these actions created has been a main preoccupation of the city’s government ever since. The promised cost savings never materialized (instead the city government became larger, more expensive, and arguably less efficient), the many service funding crises created by the restructuring have only been mostly resolved within the past year or two, and Toronto’s politics have often been dominated by resentments created by process.

This thorough fouling up of Toronto was followed by similar amalgamations across the province a few years later, that created controversy and urban-rural resentment and governance difficulties in Hamilton, Ottawa, Sudbury, and other haphazardly pasted-together municipalities across the province.

Fast forward to last year, when Premier Ford tossed a bomb into Toronto’s election by overruling a years-long local process of study and discussion to redraw the city’s ward representation, and instead slashed the size of council almost in half on a whim in the middle of an election campaign that was already underway.

It’s a record of creating chaos. Intentionally, many suspect, though the claimed motive is always the same: efficiency and effectiveness. The sum total of the historic arguments offered by people like Harris and Ford is that better and cheaper government is best achieved by putting ever-fewer people in charge of governing ever-larger areas. It’s just that the evidence they are correct about that is, to put it lightly, contested.

“We will be looking at ways to make better use of taxpayers’ dollars and make it easier for residents and businesses to access important municipal services,” Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said in a statement Tuesday announcing the review of regional government structure, and of those municipalities inside regional government structures.

There it is again — efficiency and effectiveness.

The two people appointed to lead the review — former deputy minister and Metrolinx executive Michael Fenn and recently retired long-serving Waterloo Region chair Ken Seiling — may temper the fears of a hack job. Both men have long experience with municipal and regional government, and a glance at their resumés shows they seem likely to understand the issues on which they are expected to make recommendations.

If the consultation and study process is legitimate, they may pave the way for the kinds of tweaks and changes that are needed and avoid the kind of ill-considered, rushed, bold statement Ford and his party’s history may lead us to expect.

If. That’s an important if.

If there are some reasons for hope, they remain alongside anxiety about another possible result.

My colleague Jennifer Pagliaro, reporting from a press conference of GTA mayors held Tuesday after a meeting at Toronto City Hall, summed up, “One clear message from GTHA mayors here in Tory’s office is: Don’t drop a bombshell on us restructuring our governments the way you did in Toronto.”

As Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said, “I hope that the municipalities and the region will be consulted sincerely as this process unfolds.”

Or as Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward put it, citing Toronto’s experience as a “classic example” of what she hopes they will avoid: “You don’t do it with a hatchet, you do it with a handshake.”

Let’s hope so.

With files from Robert Benzie, David Rider, and Jennifer Pagliaro

Edward Keenan is a columnist based in Toronto covering urban affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @thekeenanwire



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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