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Township mayors and region residents discuss amalgamation of Waterloo region

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Two township mayors are speaking out against amalgamation after six Region of Waterloo councillors announced they want to turn the seven separate municipalities in the region into one unified city.

On Wednesday morning, six councillors held a news conference, sharing statements and explaining why they’re pushing for amalgamation.

The six councillors said they believe it will be better for taxpayers and be cost-efficient.

“Overall, I think reorganizing the government to one level will save taxpayers money and will increase the level of service in the region [we] will be able to provide,” Coun. Kari Williams said during the conference.

There are 15 Regional of Waterloo councillors, including mayors of cities and townships, plus the regional chair.

The six councillors who spoke at the conference only represent constituents in Kitchener and Waterloo.

Waterloo regional councillors Chantal Huinink, Kari Williams, Colleen James, Michael Harris, Jim Erb and Robert Deutschmann announce their support for amalgamation at a news conference on June 7, 2023. (Heather Senoran/CTV Kitchener)

WOOLWICH TOWNSHIP

Regional councillor and Woolwich Township’s mayor Sandy Shantz said she was surprised the townships were not included in Wednesday’s conference.

“I did not know about it until the last minute,” Shantz told CTV News. “It caught me off guard. It’s not the way we generally do business. This is a discussion that needs to happen across the whole region, particularly in each individual municipality.”

Shantz said protecting the township’s identity is important to her constituents, and she’s hoping things stay as they are. She said amalgamation wouldn’t serve the townships.

“Wholesale change. I don’t think is necessary,” she said. “To sort of combine that and get swallowed up in a hole, where the majority of the population is in the city, is not where we want to go.”

NORTH DUMFRIES

Sue Foxton, mayor of North Dumfries Township, is also a regional councillor. She said a proper referendum and discussion with all regional councillors and community members is needed.

“Discussion is not a bad thing. It should happen. The way it was done was very unprofessional,” Foxton said.

Foxton said she’s heard from a lot of her constituents about the topic of amalgamation.

“And we don’t get a lot of services, so it will get even less if that happens. Had a lot of emails this morning,” Foxton said.

Foxton was a councillor in the late 1990s, when she said amalgamation was discussed. She said consultants then said it was not the right move.

“For example, North Dumfries taxes would have been raised up 36 per cent without any representation, and anything we wanted to do, we would have to go to downtown Kitchener,” Foxton said.

CITY OF CAMBRIDGE

The City of Cambridge was also left out of the announcement on Wednesday.

“We would become a lost suburb of Kitchener-Waterloo,” said Nicholas Ermeta, a City of Cambridge councillor, who is not a regional councillor.

He said he doesn’t want amalgamation or for things to stay the same – he’s hoping for even more change.

“To protect Cambridge from amalgamation, I believe we should leave the region. And we should become a standalone municipality,” Ermeta told CTV News.

RESIDENTS OFFER MIXED OPINIONS

In speaking to residents in Cambridge, Waterloo and Ayr – all offered different opinions on amalgamation.

“It sounds like a good idea to me. Just to get us all together. We’re kind of all one big city anyways,” one Waterloo resident said.

“For me, I think it is ok to make one city. Maybe it will save some money,” said a Cambridge resident.

“I would say no. I prefer not to amalgamate. I’d rather Ayr stay as a little village.” said an Ayr resident.

MOVING FORWARD

The six regional councils said the point of the news conference was to start a discussion and let the province know they are interested in amalgamation. Nothing is set in stone at this point.

“We have lots of research to do. Let’s keep talking. Let’s see what the numbers say,” Coun. Rob Deutschmann told CTV News on Wednesday.

They admitted it is very early days, and they are open to different opinions and future discussions.

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