I was interested to read your extensive interview, “Schlange wants Niagara to reap benefits of amalgamation,” conducted with the former Niagara Region chief administrator Harry Schlange, in the Oct. 12 edition of The Lake Report.
Not surprising from his background, Mr. Schlange advocates an ambitious amalgamation of 12 municipalities across the Niagara Region, to recoup an estimated cost savings of $250 million over 10 years, based on bulk purchasing, shared resources, improved efficiencies, etc.
It is a shame the interview didn’t include the opposing view, notably to express the drawbacks and vulnerabilities of aggressive and wholesale integration of government.
Some include slower moving, sclerotic decision-making by amalgamated councils combined from different regions (and often with competing and conflicted interests), the complications from size and scope of decisions and the complications to prioritize and manage fiscal outlays from large public budgets.
Further, larger government will rely on a large and encroaching bureaucracy, with the inevitable inertia and resistance to “out of the box” innovative ideas bogging down decisions.
One needs to look no further than the 24-member Toronto city council to illustrate the inability of large disparate regional government to make crucial decisions on infrastructure planning and execution, and to manage and control public finances.
Experience has shown that consolidated larger government often means less-effective government and higher tax bills.
Perhaps some thought could be given to find cost savings through collaborative efforts of existing government in ongoing operations and long-term projects, before embarking on sweeping reorganization of government.
Individual taxpayers are unlikely to benefit from the ambitious efforts to enlarge government mandates, but they will be relied on to clean up the fiscal excesses.