Burlington is clearly trying to sabotage the process of carrying out an equitable redistribution of members on Halton regional council, according to Tom Adams, who represents Ward 6 in Oakville.
After heavy discussion at a Halton regional council meeting.
Despite protests from Mayor Rick Goldring and four Burlington Councillors, the Region is going ahead with a request to the Province to give Milton two more seats and Oakville one more.
If it’s approved, regional council would then have 24 members, instead of 21 – eight from Oakville, seven from Burlington five from Milton, three from Halton Hills, plus regional chair Gary Carr.
In order to have the changes in effect for the municipal election of 2018, final approval for the changes must be completed by Dec. 31, 2017.
Mayor Goldring said a decision should be made on population figures from the most recent census in 2011, rather than best planning estimates which can be wrong.
He said Burlington has the potential to grow to 218,000 people with its intensification process, and possibly 254,000 if it adjusts some of the zoning.
Blair Lancaster, who represents Ward 6 north of Hwy. 5, said Halton Board of Education estimates for the number of new students in the Alton Community this year fell way short.
Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison said the potential growth in Burlington is being underestimated. Oakville’s growth is all in greenfields, he pointed out, but Burlington could still grow significantly through intensification in existing neighborhoods.
“I’m willing to have a race with Oakville and see where we get to in numbers,” he said.
Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward said there is no justification for adding an extra regional council seat in Oakville, calling it a political decision.
Official figures from the 2011 census showed Oakville with a population of 182,000, only 6,000 people more than Burlington at 176,000. However, since that time residential growth north of Hwy. 5 in Oakville has exploded.
The lone calming voice from Burlington belonged to John Taylor, the longest serving member of council.
“I don’t think it’s outrageous for Oakville to have an extra seat,” he said. “I think we could hurt relationships in the long run by being obstinate.”
Acting as a sort of mediator, Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette suggested the process not be held up any longer just because Oakville is getting one more seat than Burlington. He said regional council has been kicking the issue around for the last seven years.
“If the next census comes back in 2016 and the numbers warrant Burlington have another seat, we can have that discussion at that time,” he said.
Longtime Milton Mayor Gord Krantz’s vision of a sense of fairness was a reduction in the number of councillors in some municipalities, but he was voted down on that issue.
Twenty years ago Burlington city council had 17 members, but politicians of the day voted to reduce it to seven as a cost-cutting measure.
The 2011 census showed that Milton’s population growth rate is 56.5 per cent. Ironically, Milton had the lowest population of any of the four Halton municipalities when regional government took effect in January of 1974. But it is expected to reach the 200,000 mark within the next decade.
The last review of representation by municipality was undertaken in 1996 and changes were made in 1997 when the population of the region was 340,000. It is now 530,900, with forecasts for the population to reach 556,200 by 2016 and 624,000 by the year 2021.
When regional government was initiated in 1973, Burlington had nine members, compared to only seven for Oakville, five for North
Halton (now Halton Hills) and three from Milton. Regional chairman Allan Masson, who was from Oakville, brought the total up to 25.
The original proposal by the provincial government gave Burlington 9 councillors – one for every 10,333 residents; Oakville six – one for every 9,833; North Halton four – one for every 7,875 and Central Halton (Milton) three – one for every 4,833.
In subsequent discussions both Oakville and North Halton were granted one more member.
At that time Halton had a population of only 197,000, with Burlington being the largest municipality at 90,000.
Written by: Denis Gibbons