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Megacity could be mega-headache

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 06:00 am

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If James Cummings, head of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, thinks that amalgamating Edmonton with smaller capital region communities like St. Albert is a good idea, he should take a look at what happened in Toronto when then-Ontario Premier Mike Harris amalgamated Toronto with many of its smaller neighbours. Ten years later, in 2008, the Frontier Centre For Public Policy weighed in on the results.

Youíd think a western Canadian, conservative think tank like the Frontier Centre would support something done by the Conservative Mike Harris, right? Wrong. The centre concluded that turning Toronto into a giant megacity was a failure. The new city council became bloated and dysfunctional, and they were saying this in 2008, long before Rob Ford ever became mayor.

Debt and costs both increased, including the salaries of public servants, all of whose salaries were increased to the highest rates paid by the communities that were amalgamated. The bureaucracy itself increased too according to the University of British Columbiaís Deming K. Smith; amalgamation led to over 1,600 new people working for the new megacity. Toronto politicians, pundits and civil servants admitted that the people of the new megacity felt a major loss of confidence and disconnect from their government.

But donít take my word in all this. You can find the Frontier Centreís assessment online at https://www.fcpp.org/posts/its-unanimous-torontos-megacity-is-a-flop. To find Professor Smithís evidence of all the new civil servant positions, look on page 9 of the paper at http://www.chs.ubc.ca/consortia/outputs3/Inter-municipal_Collab-Toronto_Montreal-Smith-Oct2007-ENG.pdf.

Somehow I doubt this is what Mr. Cummings wants to see if the Capital Region communities are fused together. Besides, it should be noted that the people of St. Albert and other surrounding capital region communities already make a huge contribution to the Edmonton economy by spending money at the businesses Mr. Cummings speaks for, strengthening their profits and Edmontonís tax base. Our provincial taxes also pay for Edmontonís infrastructure and services through the grants it gets from the province, just as Edmontoniansí taxes pay for ours. The surrounding communities also pay for their own infrastructure that people rely on to get to Edmonton, such as the St. Albert Trail thatís so popular with truckers and shoppers bringing goods and money into the capital city.

Weíre already all in this together, and itís unlikely that amalgamation will help much. Itís more likely to saddle us with many of the same headaches as Toronto.

Jared Milne, St. Albert


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