The City of Vaughan held a special committee meeting to discuss regional governance, where Mayor Steven Del Duca presented a motion to consider a potential separation of Vaughan from York Region. Citing the recently passed Hazel McCallion Act and the separation of Brampton and Mississauga from Peel Region, Del Duca argued that the move may be necessary for Vaughan to have control over its future.
The news comes just a week after Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti proposed the idea of amalgamating all the York Region municipalities, which Premier Doug Ford quickly put the kibosh on.
Vaughan, a rapidly growing city, has experienced a significant population increase and is expected to continue growing in the coming years. According to Del Duca, the city has made commitments to meet housing targets and has contributed a substantial share of property tax revenue and development charges to York Region.
Recognizing the provincial government’s efforts to streamline decision-making and modernize regional municipal governance, Vaughan aims to explore a new governance model as part of the facilitation process initiated by the government. The city emphasizes the importance of shared services, such as police and paramedic services and public transit, that should continue to be delivered collaboratively across York Region.
“We do have to recognise through our work over the years 50 years of regional government that we’ve had here in the province of Ontario, that there are certain responsibilities that we hold in common across the entire region. And while I am very convinced that Queen’s Park is keen to look for structural changes that reduce duplication, streamline decision-making, help housing get built more quickly, and help transformational city-building initiatives be delivered for residents to be able to do all of that,” Del Duca explained, during the meeting. “But at the same time recognize that whether we’re talking, for example, about our police services or public transit or perhaps a series of other responsibilities that we do share in common that while we can look for ways to become more efficient, and we should, that there will still very likely be a responsibility to continue to some extent to pool resources.”
According to Del Duca, Vaughan’s transformational city-building initiatives and infrastructure projects require a governance model that aligns with its status as a large, prosperous, and rapidly growing city. To support this, the city recommends a change in the governance model of York Region to better reflect the current and future needs of its residents.
Vaughan councillor Mario Racco pointed out that the services provided to residents by the city are working well, and a new report pointed out that 88 per cent of residents are satisfied.
“So we gotta be careful 88% seems to me to be very high,” Racco said. “So if our constituents are very happy, how can we say that things are not as good?”
Gila Martow, Vaughan councillor for Ward 5 and Thornhill, said she supported Del Duca’s resolution while acknowledging that the talk of separation made her nervous.
“I’m from Quebec, so it always gets the hairs on the back of my neck when I hear about separations,” she said. “I think that there is going to be change coming, change is in the wind. And I support the mayor’s efforts to get ahead of it and to be organised. So I think that this is all very wise.”
As part of the recommendation, Vaughan will undertake an analysis to explore the new governance model and plans to retain consultant support for this purpose. The city aims to report the findings to Vaughan Council by the end of September 2023. A copy of the resolution will be forwarded to relevant stakeholders, including York Region Chair Wayne Emmerson, the mayors of the lower-tier municipalities, the Premier of Ontario, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Del Duca said the province of Ontario is likely to appoint “facilitators” soon for the separation of Mississauga from Peel Region and at that time, will most likely be investigating the entire region. So, Vaughan should get ahead of the process and be ready instead of having a process imposed on the city.
To fund the analysis, the city will utilize existing approved operational budgets and follow its procurement policies. External consultants will be engaged to ensure the accurate and timely delivery of the report findings. There is no set budget yet for the preliminary consultation work ahead, although estimates at the meeting were around the $50,000 mark.
Vaughan’s pursuit of a separate governance model reflects its commitment to shaping its future and ensuring service excellence while protecting taxpayers.