Reducing gov’t units doesn’t always work

My wife is Canadian. When weather people forecast inclement weather, “Coming down from Canada” it annoys her. Canada doesn’t make the weather; it’s a messenger.

Recently, Steve Fletcher did some forecasting. He postulated that having just one governmental unit for all of Alpena County would be more efficient than our present multilevel system.

Again, Canada has a message.

Bruce County, Ontario, is just to our east across Lake Huron. It parallels and encompasses a similarly sized land area and contains essentially the same population as does Alcona, Alpena, and Iosco counties combined. In these three Michigan counties – if I have counted correctly – here are Thirty-four operating governmental units: counties, cities, towns, and townships.

In 1996, in response to Provincial legislation, Bruce County was amalgamated into a county with only eight “Municipalities.” Ontario wide, between 1996 and 2000, the number of local government units was reduced from 850 to 445. Twenty-three percent of all locally elected positions were eliminated. The benefits of this, “Common Sense Revolution” were believed to be self-evident.

However, on Jan. 13, 2014, a study reported in The Toronto Star (Google:”Ontario Amalgamation”); and an earlier study: An Analysis of Municipal Restructuring in Ontario, McMaster University (2004), have both shown the expected efficiency gain has not occurred. In fact, paradoxically, the opposite has been observed. In 1990 there were 15.8 local government workers for every 1,000 people in Ontario. In 2010 that rate had grown to 20.9 workers.

They are not sure why, but it is clear that amalgamation of government structure has not reduced the size or the cost of local government in Ontario.

Maybe Steve Fletcher should pick a day when the weather is not, “Coming across from Northeast Michigan” and take a trip to Bruce County.

Doug Pugh

Alpena