Re: Amalgamation still perplexes city councillors, March 1
Why is amalgamation not working?
It’s all because of the process.
When two-tier regional government, imposed by Bill Davis in 1974, didn’t deliver the promised results of lower taxes and better service, the Stewart Commission identified the root cause as lingering animosity between the unwilling partners. So it should come as no surprise that Forced Amalgamation 2.0, compliments of Mike Harris, is equally doomed.
Amalgamation could be made to work were it chosen by the citizens through democratic process. Voters can even accept that their personal choice was in the minority. But to be denied the opportunity to vote on something as fundamental as the establishment of local government, is a violation that strikes at the very core of what is right, what is honest, what is true.
As Mayor Bratina and others have noted, municipalities are created, and unilaterally re-created, by the Province of Ontario. Municipalities therefore fail to meet the most fundamental democratic test because municipalities do not exist at the consent of the governed.
So, what will it take to make Hamilton functional?
A good start would be for council to address the reasons why Hamilton is considered one of the most difficult and bureaucratic places to do business. And city council must stop shooting itself in the foot with decisions that erode trust, like the one that led to parking meters appearing in downtown Waterdown.
But the real infection lies far deeper.
Step one would be a sincere apology from the PC Party of Ontario for the harm the Harris government inflicted upon Hamilton through forced amalgamation. Until then, voters will continue to exact payback at each election.
Second, Hamilton should seriously consider a truth and reconciliation process to acknowledge how our communities have been victimized by an undemocratic assault.
Some may argue this will just open up old wounds, but that’s the only way to heal the festering infection of amalgamation.
Third, Hamilton Council must aggressively demand Queen’s Park provide the resources needed to deliver on amalgamation’s promise of lower taxes, better service.
I do not believe Hamilton is forever trapped in an urban/suburban/rural no-win relationship. I have seen countless volunteers from the suburbs pouring their time, energy and financial resources into agencies and organizations committed to improving the lives of the inner-city poor.
Hamilton’s political leaders can learn valuable lessons from these organizations, which understand the importance of telling their supporters “we love you, we appreciate you, we need you.” Maybe then can we begin to build a new community from the ruins of the past.