Like the Parrot in an old Monty Python sketch the subject of municipal amalgamation is dead—“’E’s passed on! This (topic) is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace.” It may be of academic interest to learn from Dr. Timothy Cobban of Western University what most had already gathered; that far from creating efficiencies, amalgamation has resulted in a major increase in staffing levels in the amalgamated cities as opposed to those that did not amalgamate. But it is a certainty there will be no reversal of the process. The government of the day may have imposed amalgamation on unwilling municipalities, but it didn’t order Hamilton, for instance, to increase staffing by more than 20 percent in the years since amalgamation.

It also must be recognized that in the case of Hamilton, the rural-urban divide has changed significantly since 2000. Look at Glanbrook for example. In 2000 it was almost exclusively rural in nature. Now, with the explosion of new housing development in Binbrook and Mt. Hope, there soon will be more people living in Glanbrook who perceive themselves as urban dwellers than rural. Similar changes are occurring in Ancaster, Dundas, and Flamborough. The problem with amalgamation is that when there are salary differentials between amalgamated municipal staffs the higher number always prevails. In addition the level of service provided usually ramps up as well. Volunteer fire departments are replaced by full time fire services. Buying policing from the OPP is replaced by the municipal police force. Septic systems give way to city water and waste water and on it goes. Amalgamation should not be used as an excuse for allowing staff levels to keep creeping up beyond what is absolutely necessary to handle the increased servicing. That is something that can be addressed right here in Hamilton.

John Best had enjoyed a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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