Hamilton's Amalgamation History Lesson

by Tony Colvin

Establishment of Wentworth County and townships, including Flamborough East Flamborough West, Beverly, Ancaster, Barton, Saltfleet, Glanford and Binbrook; see

November 24, 1969:
Hamilton-Wentworth Local Government Review. Donald R. Steele, Q.C. (Chairman), Brian Morison, Q.C. and Edwin A. Jarrett reported after six weeks of public hearings.

May 28, 1973:
Province offered Hamilton and Wentworth County the choice of two systems - 1 tier and 2 tier.

July 30, 1973:
Legislation providing for regional government (Bill 155) passed

January 7, 1974:
Inaugural meeting of Regional Council with Ann Jones as appointed Chairwoman.

September 20, 1977:
Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Government Review. A three man commission comprising Henry Stewart (Chairman), Dr. James Johnson, and Harold Dixon was formed to examine every aspect of regional government, consider modifications in the two-tier system, possible duplication of costs and even a return to a one-tier system.

May 10, 1978:
The report was released from the Stewart Commission. It recommended that a new city of Wentworth replace the city of Hamilton and the surrounding communities in a one-tier government with 27 aldermen, each representing one ward. June 16, 1978: the recommendations were shelved by the provincial government.

January 19, 1995:
Terry Cooke announced a Constituent Assembly consisting of a 15 member volunteer group chaired by Chester Waxman and Don Granger (ex-mayor of Flamborough and now sitting on the OMB) with a mandate to come up with recommendations for restructuring municipal government. The final report was released on April 3, 1996 recommending replacement of the 7 area councils with a single body of not more than 30 members.

July 5, 1996:
Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council voted down the Constituent Assembly recommendations by a vote of 20-7.

October 2, 1996:
Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council voted to end regional government by a vote of 17-10.

October 24, 1996:
Gardner Church was appointed as a facilitator by Ontario government.

November 9, 1996:
An agreement was reached with the 'Final Memorandum of Negotiations' recommending a one-tier supercity that would do away with local communities and have a 33-member council. The suburban areas would have parity in number of members with Hamilton.

December 11, 1996:
Hamilton city council voted against the Church recommendations.

December 16, 1996:
Ernie Hardeman is appointed to negotiate.

January 1997:
public hearings were held.

February 8, 1997:
The suburban communities held a referendum unsanctioned by province. The vote was Yes: 1,740 No: 29,814.

February 14, 1997:
The Hardeman report was released recommending a 19 member supercity council.

February 24, 1997:
Toni Skarica MPP announced the Skarica plan, recommending scrapping regional government and keeping all six local governments.

February-March 1997:
All area councils endorsed the Skarica plan.

March 11, 1997:
Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council approved the Skarica plan with amendments.

11 March 1997:
Skarica plan. Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council voted 18-8 to dismantle the regional government, strengthen municipalities and work cooperatively to deal with regional needs.

May 20, 1997:
The Ontario government "abandoned" regional reform in Hamilton-Wentworth for the present.

January 1, 1998:
Provincial downloading led to the streamlining and amalgamation of some regional and city departments.

February 19, 1998:
The Administrative Structure and Best Practices Steering Committee of the Region, following consultation with the City of Hamilton, proposed to amalgamate Hamilton and the region but leave local councils in the suburban municipalities. This proposal would take effect January 1, 2001.

April 18, 1998:
The plan was debated at regional council but no consensus was reached and the report was sent back to committee to deal with the concerns raised.

May 9, 1998:
The proposed restructuring was again debated at Regional Council. It passed 16-9 (3 absent). Municipal Affairs Minister Al Leach announced that he would support the plan as long as it had the majority support of area councils. The proposal was sent to each council for debate and ratification.

May 14, 1998:
Hamilton City Council voted 10-4 in favour of the proposed merger.

May 20, 1998:
Dundas rejected the proposed merger 7-2.

May 25, 1998:
Flamborough rejected the proposed merger unanimously.

May 26, 1998:
Stoney Creek rejected the proposed merger 8-1. With the majority of suburban municipalities rejecting the merger, the plan died.

May 28, 1998:
Municipal Affairs Minister Al Leach rejected a demand that the province impose a solution.

June 18, 1998:
Two private members bills had been proposed. Neither was dealt with before the end of the legislative session and therefore could not be passed or implemented. Skarica Plan: a revival of the earlier Skarica Plan, and the Agostino Plan that asked for the appointment of a mediator to lead to an imposed restructuring. This plan received first reading before the legislature rose for the summer vacation.

April 6, 1999:
The Province gave the Region $25million to help pay the costs of the administrative merger of the City and Region. These costs included staff cuts, early retirement, voluntary departure and redundancies.

August 24, 1999:
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Gilchrist announced that an advisor would be appointed to examine the question of municipal restructuring in Hamilton-Wentworth. The advisor would hold 60 days of public consultations on restructuring and then make a recommendation to cabinet to make the final decision.

August 28, 1999:
Dundas (9-0), Flamborough (7-1) and Ancaster (5-1) voted to try to merge into a united City of Wentworth.

September 24, 1999:
David O'Brien (City Manager of Mississauga) was named Special Advisor by the Province.

October 19, 1999:
Three days of public hearings began.

October 23, 1999:
Steve Gilchrist resigned as Minister of Municipal Affairs (after accusations of demanding campaign donations in return for meetings while his 1984 conviction for tax fraud surfaced) and was replaced by Tony Clement, (who remained the Minister of the Environment and co-founder of the Canadian Alliance. Wearing all these hats he denied that he read a draft document prepared by the Environment Ministry's water policy branch warning of serious concerns related to water testing and reporting procedures, and noting that a number of smaller municipalities were not meeting water-monitoring or reporting requirements, with cost the main reason for non-compliance. It also noted that private laboratories - forced on municipalities by the government in 1996 - had no responsibility to notify health officials if they discovered bad water, and this loophole would delay the boil-water advisory in Walkerton by at least two fatal days. Clement would eventually realize the potential backlash to forcing communities into amalgamation, and order a halt to forced mergers after Dave Johnson lost his seat in Toronto. That move, however, only came after amalgamation became an issue in the Peel area that he represents and Chris Hodgson decided he couldn't win again and resigned).

May-June 1999:
During the election, Harris promised voters living around Hamilton that he would respect a local decision on the issue.

November 26, 1999:
David O'Brien submitted his Final Report & Recommendations to Clement. He ignored the results of a local referendum decisively and quickly moved to create the Hamilton Supercity, which prompted the sudden resignation of Hamilton-area MPP Toni Skarica and the Tories' defeat in the subsequent by-election.

December 6, 1999:
Bill 25, Fewer Municipal Politicians Act for the forced amalgamation of Hamilton-Wentworth, Ottawa-Carleton, Sudbury and Haldiman-Norfolk. Section 37(1)b provided the cabinet with the ability to make any changes to any laws passed by the Ontario legislature that the cabinet, in its full and absolute and sole discretion, deemed to be worthwhile.

Tuesday December 14, 1999:
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni; "I support one tier as the member representing Hamilton Mountain but find it very difficult, and I said this before our leader said it, on the Roy Green Show with all the members present from the Hamilton-Wentworth region, because it is undemocratic, very possibly unconstitutional and financially not in the best interests of the region".

December 15. 1999:
Mr Brad Clark: "When I ran in the election I made it very clear that my constituents come first, and I stand by that. I stated very clearly and unequivocally throughout the campaign that I opposed the megacity, and I stand by that. ... At the end of it, everyone agreed they would like to see Glanbrook and Stoney Creek merged together as a united city..... They came up with a solution. Eighty-five per cent of the residents in my riding supported the tri-city agreement; 93% opposed being annexed or amalgamated into Hamilton. Therefore, when I stand in the House today-and it's not an easy feat to stand and speak against your government, nor is it an easy feat to vote against them-I am opposed to Bill 25 and will vote against it. I have no choice. My constituents come first."

February 2000:
Liberal polling showed Tories with 28 point lead in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot Toni Skarica resigned.

June 16, 2000:
Merger Mania by Andrew Sancton, Professor of Political Science at University of Western Ontario published the idea that merging municipalities would improve local services and economic competitiveness originated in the nineteenth century with the first US municipalities being merged in 1848. New York was merged at the turn of the twentieth century and was effectively bankrupt by 1975. In contrast metropolitan Boston - often see n as a recent success story in global competition - continued to comprise 282 distinct municipalities. Outside the United States, forced municipal mergers were a popular policy in many European countries and Canadian provinces during the 1960s and 1970s, producing the city of Laval and the "unicity" of Winnipeg. Neither succeeded. Despite the emergence of "public choice" theory - which justifies municipal fragmentation on market principles - some politicians and public servants in the 1990s continued to advocate municipal amalgamations as a means of reducing public expenditure, particularly in Ontario. This approach has generally not saved money, and Sancton examined the history of recent forced mergers in Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, and Sudbury.

September 8, 2000:
Ted McMeekin elected MPP by 20,000 to 10,000 for Priscilla de Villiers.

February 15, 2001:
Press release: "Now that Premier Harris has decided that there will be no further forced municipal amalgamations in Ontario, it is time for the people of Hamilton and area to have a voice in deciding for themselves whether the New City of Hamilton is working," said Liberal Municipal Affairs Critic Ted McMeekin. Today, I am asking the provincial government to do the right thing and allow the citizens in each of our municipalities a direct vote sometime prior to the next provincial election on the important question of whether we are better off as a result of this amalgamation."

November 12, 2002:
MPP Chris Hodgson, Minister of Municipal Affairs, appeared before City of Kawartha Lakes Council to ask Council to request a referendum on de-amalgamation. Council passed a motion making that request. Mr. Hodgson then appointed a panel to recommend the referendum question. On December 20, the panel released their report to the Minister and the public, unanimously recommending the question to be put to the voters.

December 10, 2002:
Hamilton City Council refused to ask Hodgson to put a question on the ballot. Council Minutes: "Question on the Ballot respecting the issue of Municipal De-Amalgamation A motion by Councillor Mitchell on the above matter was deferred with the instruction that correspondence be forwarded to the Minister of Municipal Affairs requesting the official government position on de-amalgamation. Councillor D'Amico and Braden indicated that the wished to be recorded as OPPOSED to this item".

January 8, 2003:
Mr. Hodgson decided the referendum on de-merging Kawartha lakes will be held along with the municipal election on November 10 2003. The question: "Are you in favour of a return to the previous municipal model of government with an upper-tier municipality and 16 lower-tier municipalities?" Chris Hodgson then resigned, saying he would not run again.

April 14, 2003:
Jean Charest elected Premier of Quebec on a platform permitting citizens of forcibly merged supercities to decide on de-merger in a referendum.