Suggesting bigger isn't always better the province will let municipalities decide if they want to amalgamate.

The announcement by Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark drew applause from a policy conference held by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, “We will not force amalgamations of municipalities.”

After a year of growing tension between the Ontario government and municipalities, Clark says municipal mergers will be local decisions, “They will be able to indicate what they would like to review and we will do it as an application based service as opposed to the provincial government passing legislation that defines their boundary or defines their council size.”

In Zorra Township the announcement is greeted with relief.  Mayor Marcus Ryan says the pressure is off a regional government review process that could have seen Oxford County communities amalgamate against their will, ”Amalgamations that have happened in the past, there is very little to no evidence that there was actually cost savings realized and there is some evidence that it drove costs up.”

Instead, the provincial government will help municipalities modernize.  There will be $125 million over four years for small communities to review and improve service delivery.  Cities can tap into $6 million to reduce costs through line by line reviews and audits.

AMO president Jamie McGarvey praises the move, “Modernizing, doing things better, building better relationships, which is going to help improve municipalities.”

Mayor Ryan says Oxford County communities already cooperate on the delivery of many services, the funding could help find ways to do more, “We're already delivering a service delivery review in Oxford County, all the area municipalities, to determine if we are delivering services in the most effective and efficient way that we could.”

Also announced today, consultation will begin on aligning the provincial and municipal budget cycles to provide cities with greater funding certainty.