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May. 27, 2022 | Friday
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No forced amalgamation for Niagara: Province decides 'one size doesn't fit all'
The map of Niagara municipalities will not be changing.

The Ontario government will not force amalgamation on Niagara Region or any of the regional municipalities across the province.

There will be no One Niagara nor a Four-City model nor any other major change – the existing regional governance format will continue.

However, the Ford government is dangling $143 million in incentives for the province’s 144 municipalities to lower costs, improve services and find efficiencies.

In a surprise announcement Friday morning, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark revealed the extensive review that began last winter has determined it would be a mistake to blow up the regional government model that was first introduced in the 1970s.

“Municipalities are the level of government closest to the people, but every community is different – one size doesn't fit all," Clark said in a news release.

Clark dropped the bombshell announcement in London, Ont., at the fall policy forum of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

After the governance review was launched, most local politicians, observers and administrators thought that massive forced amalgamations were inevitable. While many pushed back hard against the idea and suggested alternatives, it was almost universally acknowledged that changes were coming.

The review of Ontario's eight regional governments and Simcoe County, overseen by special advisers Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling, received more than 8,500 submissions. They concluded radical change was not required.

“Throughout this extensive review, the government heard that local communities should decide what is best for them in terms of governance, decision-making and service delivery,” Clark said.

“After careful consideration of the feedback we heard through the course of the review, our government stands firm in its commitment to partnering with municipalities without pursuing a top-down approach. We will provide municipalities with the resources to support local decision-making.”

The $143 million available to municipalities is to find “smarter, more efficient” ways to operate and focus spending on key programs and services, Clark said.

"We are committed to helping and empowering municipalities to become more efficient and effective, so they can make every dollar count," he said.