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County councillors agree: It's time to shrink the size of government

'As we sit today... we do not have a 100 per cent dedicated member of county council. We share our municipal hats,' says warden
County of Simcoe

After meeting multiple times over the past two months, the county’s governance committee and regional governance review task force have come to consensus on how they think they could make their government and services more efficient.

“I, personally, felt the two committees did an excellent job after some pretty intense conversation coming up with some recommendations,” Simcoe County Warden George Cornell said in an interview with BarrieToday. “Our staff, clerk and CAO were instrumental in helping collect those thoughts and putting them into two reports.”

Clearview Deputy Mayor Barry Burton sat on the governance committee.

“It was pretty tough to get a consensus. The one thing we all agreed on was supporting the two-tier system,” Burton said during committee of the whole on Tuesday.

Simcoe County is comprised of 16 towns and townships, not including the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia. County council is currently made up of 32 members, with both the mayor and deputy mayor from each of the 16 municipalities. The warden's position, which is a two-year term, is voted upon by county councillors. 

The main recommendation from the governance committee was to reduce the size of county council, while including new elected positions of regional councillors. Included in the recommendation is that any future wardens be selected from the regional-councillor pool only.

The report doesn’t include numbers of how many councillors there might be, or how many regional councillors would be elected.

“The principle of this... is that we support direct representation from the local municipalities at the county governance table. How many? That’s to be determined, but less than we have now,” said Cornell.

“We also recommended that there should be regional representation at county council, because as we sit today, from a governance perspective, we do not have a 100 per cent dedicated member of county council. We share our municipal hats,” said Cornell. “It would make sense, and we think it’s beneficial to have folks that are dedicated 100 per cent to county issues.”

The regional governance review task force kept its focus on service delivery, and listed the services members believed needed further consideration, rationalization or improvements in delivery or co-ordination.

Those services were conservation authorities, fire services, land-use planning, library services and stormwater management.

Other services that were deemed by the task force to be satisfactory, but could still benefit from a review, were housing, legal services, long-term care homes, paramedic services, roads and infrastructure, transit, water and wastewater.

Cornell says that this is just the next step in pushing forward toward making things more efficient on a county scale.

“We had our first step with our workshop. We wrote a letter to the minister out of that workshop with respect to our services and our successes,” he said. “Now, we’ve drilled down a little further and added some meat to those recommendations. We’re willing to work with the province.”

Both reports were received by committee of the whole. The decision will need to be ratified at the next county council meeting on May 28.

After the decision is ratified, next steps will be sending the correspondence to the province.

“We’ll give the province an appropriate time to respond, and depending on what happens there, or doesn’t happen there, we would revisit that as a county council,” said Cornell.

Any member of the public that wishes to have their say can still fill out the Ontario government's survey online by May 21 by clicking here.


Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings nine years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering county matters, court, Collingwood and Barrie matters
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