Ontario municipalities spending more since amalgamation: report

Watch the video above: Did amalgamation save money? Mark Carcasole reports. 

TORONTO –Amalgamating Toronto, Scarborough, York, North York, East York, and Etobicoke has cost taxpayers more money, not less, according to new research out of the University of Western Ontario.

But it’s unclear what caused those increased costs.

Western University professor Timothy Cobban led a team of researchers who found that in the 15 years since amalgamation municipal governments across Ontario grew significantly.

Over that period, municipal governments expanded by almost 40 per cent, adding over 100,000 jobs.

“The common sense revolution didn’t reduce the size of municipal government, if we look at across the province,” Cobban said in an interview Monday. “On average all municipalities added employees, but restructured ones, ones that were amalgamated, added employees at twice the rate of unrestructured municipalities, ones that were left alone.”

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Amalgamation was touted as a way of cutting costs across the province. By amalgamating services across already closely-knit communities, governments would be able to provide more efficient services with fewer government employees.

“It was a failure of the common sense revolution to deliver on its enunciated goal,” Cobban said.

But he’s unsure exactly what caused those extra costs. They could be a result of the harmonization of wages or the pressure on governments to provide services across the previous boundaries.

To former mayor Mel Lastman, the harmonization of wages hurt the city’s finances. He said prior to amalgamation, firefighters and other workers were paid different salaries in Toronto, Scarborough, East York, North York and Etobicoke. But the new city of Toronto was forced to harmonize those salaries, resulting in significant wage increase to some employees.

Lastman opposed it while he was mayor, suggesting there was “no plan.”

Former premier Mike Harris wouldn’t consent to an interview Monday but suggested in an email to Global News that local councils failed to take advantage of amalgamation, saying: “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

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