Well that was certainly an interesting Regional Committee of the Whole meeting! I had put forward two motions for Council consideration and they both generated quite a bit of debate. I will speak to them separately as there’s a lot to discuss.
The first motion spoke to the need to revisit the consideration of creating a Regional fire service. This isn’t something new. The creation of a Regional Fire Service has been discussed at the Regional and local level for over 30 years now. In 1996, the Region created a task force, headed by the then Aurora Fire Chief Joe Hunwicks. Despite their efforts, the political will was not there at the time to ultimately make the decision to create a Regional Fire Service. Since then, there have been a few occasions when folks have tried to push the issue but again it always died at the Regional table. Even at the local level there have been those elected officials that have advocated for the creation of a Regional fire service such as former Newmarket Councillor Chris Emanuel. But it unfortunately didn’t go anywhere.
Personally, I have always believed that a Regional Fire Service makes sense, certainly from a service delivery and long term cost perspective. Yes is it true that consolidation would have some initial costs. But that is the short term. We, as representatives of our municipalities, are here to make decisions that are in the best interest of all our communities for the long term. And that is what a Regional fire service would do. We would see efficiencies over the long term as we eliminate duplications and create a better, stronger service for the Region as a whole. This is ultimately about service levels and providing all our residents the most effective, efficient fire service.
Creating a regional fire service would require a Triple Majority vote ( This means that the majority of the 9 municipalities would have to agree, including the majority of the population of the Region and Regional Council would have to say yes as well) and that’s a pretty tall order!! That is why the first step of my motion was to have Regional staff reach out to the 9 municipalities and ask for resolutions that state if they are interested in investigating consolidation. If they are interested then Regional staff would look to create a task force and begin the investigation on how we can move forward with the creation of a Regional Fire Service. They’d then present Regional Council with all the information needed to make a decision.
The debate around the table was somewhat interesting. Starting with Regional Councillor Heath who stated that we are wasting our time discussing this as Markham is a “no”!! I find that a somewhat puzzling position to take given that Council has not been provided with any information at all. The motion spoke to gathering information so that Council could make an informed decision on this important service delivery improvement. To say no to gathering information seems at odds to making informed decisions. While some stated that they are not in favour of a Regional Fire Service, I was happy to see that the majority of Council saw the merit in investigating the creation of a Regional Fire Service. The motion passed and we are on our way with taking the first step. #GettingThingsDone