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‘A good thing': Bradford council seeks a review of Simcoe County

'I’m glad they recognized this was an area to focus on and to add to the mix, because it’s definitely needed,' said Coun. Joseph Giordano of proposed review
Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor James Leduc speaks during the council meeting in the Zima Room in the library at 425 Holland Street West, on Tuesday evening, June 6, 2023.

Bradford council is sending a message about county governance.

On Tuesday night, during a recorded vote, council voted unanimously to adopt a motion from Mayor James Leduc and Deputy Mayor Raj Sandhu to send a letter to the province, welcoming the provincial facilitators recently announced by Premier Doug Ford. (Click here to read our story on Ford's plan to dissolve Peel Region and to look at other upper-tier municipalities such as Simcoe County. 

Bradford council is urging facilitators to consider factors such as fair representation, greater autonomy for lower-tier municipalities, efficiency and good governance, “and, that the facilitators explore all options to do so.”

“I wanted to move this and I wanted the deputy mayor to second for the fact that we are the county councillors. We look forward to the facilitator coming and dealing with county council and looking at it from a holistic point of view where we can look at efficiencies and effective governance,” Leduc said.

In addition to having the letter sent to Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark and the Simcoe County Warden, Basil Clarke, Leduc also requested it go to Premier Doug Ford and all south Simcoe municipalities.

“There shouldn’t be any municipalities in the province that are shying away from a review that’s going to bring efficiencies or better ways of doing business for their residents and ending up saving money. It’s a good thing that we do this review and work with the facilitators,” Sandhu said.

Ward 6 Coun. Nickolas Harper thanked the mayor for spearheading the move and asked for clarification about whether the town could still expect the review.

“There’s lot of the fear from some residents, especially after watching what happened at the county and then reversing the vote,” Harper said.

The confusion came after the warden first released a statement on May 18 claiming the county “requested engagement and facilitation with the province,” and hoped “to have further engagement ... to identify the most sustainable way forward.”

However, the county later backtracked partially, after county council passed a modifying motion on May 23 stating “that pursuing the dissolution of the County of Simcoe should absolutely not be a consideration of the provincial facilitator.”

Leduc responded to confirm the town is still expecting a provincial facilitator to review the county, regardless of the motion.

“We’re creatures of the province and so is the county, so definitely they can ask for the facilitator not to be here, but the province has mandated it,” Leduc said, referencing the passing of provincial Bill 112, the Hazel McCallion Act earlier that day.

While the bill is mostly directed toward the dissolution of Peel Region and converting the City of Mississauga, the City of Brampton and the Town of Caledon into single-tier municipalities, the bill also states “The people of Ontario and their government ... recognize that municipalities should be empowered with the tools needed to plan for population growth, including the tools needed to build more housing options, and should work together fairly and in good partnership with neighbouring municipalities.”

The province said it will also name regional facilitators to assess the upper-tier municipalities of Durham, Halton, Niagara, Simcoe, Waterloo and York.

Harper thanked the mayor for his clarification and said he hopes it dispels any rumours and fear in the community about the review.

Ward 4 Coun. Joseph Giordano thanked everyone involved in making the review happen.

“I’m glad they recognized this was an area to focus on and to add to the mix, because it’s definitely needed,” he said.

Ward 5 Coun. Peter Ferragine said this isn’t the first time Bradford has evaluated its position within the county, and expressed optimism.

“This is welcomed because we can look at it properly and each municipality can actually state where they stand and they can look at them as an individual, not as part of the whole region to make that decision,” he said.

Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Scott felt there were several areas in which the county wasn’t working as well as it should for Bradford, especially as he claimed south Simcoe pays a disproportionate share of the tax base, and is underrepresented at the county council table, having a greater population, but the same two votes as much smaller towns.

“If we’re treated like Animal Farm — we’re all treated equal but some are more equal than others — then the ones that are more equal than others are the ones that are getting a disproportionate voice compared to their population,” he said.

Scott acknowledged that county council sometimes uses a weighted vote system (based on population), but also recalled county council voting against having the weighted system used by default earlier this year.

“The provincial facilitator, I hope at a minimum, will address county council governance and the composition of county council. I truly believe if that is fair, a lot of the problems will begin to solve themselves. Having a fair county council composition is sort of the original sin of all problems,” he said.

Ward 1 Coun. Cheraldean Duhaney said she is excited to see the town moving toward the review.

“One of the most crucial things in there is growth, especially when you know there’s potential, and there’s blockage and there’s barriers,” she said.

“It’s well overdue,” Ward 3 Coun. Ben Verkaik added.

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Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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