Ford’s announcement a blow to democracy in Muskoka, says former District chair


Newly elected Premier Doug Ford sent shockwaves through Muskoka this morning by announcing that the position of District Municipal chair will not be elected at large.

The position was expected to be listed on the ballot in the upcoming October municipal election, giving voters the ability to choose the District chair for the very first time. Ford’s announcement would mean that the process will revert to the status quo, whereby District councillors would be the ones choosing the chair.

District Chair John Klinck said his phone has been ringing off the hook since Ford’s announcement.  He said while he disagrees with the timing of the announcement—today is the last day that candidates wanting to run can put their name forward—he is in favour of a reduction in government. Ford’s announcement includes changing Toronto’s boundaries and council composition from 47 to 25 representatives. What Klinck said he took exception with is Ford’s statement that there’s a culture of waste and mismanagement in municipal governance. “I believe Muskoka’s approach to service delivery and certainly the atmosphere, culture of fiscal prudence is in evidence and the numbers would support that in terms of our financial statements, our credit rating improvements and all of that,” said Klinck.

Ford’s announcement will benefit Klinck in the long run. Both candidates who have announced that they’d be running against him this October have now indicated that they’d be dropping out of the race if they had to run under the old system.

“The reason I was running was to bring real reform to District government which I believe is out of control,” said former Huntsville Mayor Hugh Mackenzie, who believes the size of the regional government needs to be reduced. “In order to do that I would need a mandate from across the District and without that mandate I wouldn’t have been able to bring about that reform so there’s no point in running,” he said. Mackenzie served as District chair in the early 1980s.

Gord Adams, who served as District chair for more than 10 years before losing to current District chair John Klinck in 2010, said he would also not be running under the status quo.

He said his intention was to get a mandate from all of Muskoka to move forward with a single-tier governance model. He said District government has become parochial and dysfunctional.

“What the Liberal government had put in place was a democratic election of the District chair in Muskoka and Peel and Halton and there are other regions where they already are directly elected, have been for several elections—he’s not changing those, so clearly what’s good for one isn’t good for the other,” said Adams of Ford’s announcement. “It’s a blow for democracy in Muskoka,” he added. Adams tried to change the governance model in 2010 while he was still District chair but could not get the majority support he needed.

The Province is expected to pass legislation—the Better Local Government Act—regarding today’s announcement by the Premier sometime next week.

There is already talk of legal action being mounted and led by Toronto Mayor John Tory due to the timing of the announcement in the middle of a municipal election and the lack of consultation. But the Province regulates municipalities and whether such an action materializes or is even successful remains to be seen.

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  1. All that I can say is what did anybody expect when they voted Mr. Ford into office? It is unfair to disparage those who have “shuffled off this mortal coil”, so let it suffice to say that a family member governed with the grace of “a bull in a china shop”. (My sympathies were with him at the time of his illness, and I extended my condolences to the family upon his passing.) Then after his death, Mr. Ford, as executor, (and brother, Randy) allegedly attempted to swindle his widow and children out of some $16.5M.
    Power corrupts: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Rest in peace, Rob: we hardly knew ye.

  2. Len Macdonald on

    For those gentle readers who thought that Ford would not behave like Trump – time to wake up. In an effort to neutralize former opponent, Patrick Brown, in his run as a District Council Chair he also eliminated our community’s chances to make this an elected position in Muskoka. No consultation with us.

    And as for Toronto, of course the City Council is too big and has been since the amalgamation but simply announcing that you have fired almost half of the Council, on the eve of the election is simply vindictive punishment leveled at the biggest city in Ontario who did not vote for Ford. Who is next – Ottawa, St. Catharines, Huntsville, Wawa? Why stop at Toronto when you have that kind of power?

    What is wrong with us that we are electing politicians, all over the world, who lie to us, make hollow promises and then use their power to punish their past opponents?

  3. Oh My god .. the gravy train is over! About time! Conservatives = ACTION / RESULTS … LIBERALS = TALK, TALK, TALK / NO ACTION! Hopefully this will be just the start to bring control and action to the ‘huge’ bureaucracy in Muskoka with common sense, fiscal control, review and action for the ‘fat’ Muskoka organization, departments and .. the HUGE cost($$$) of ALL the administrations! ‘One Muskoka’ looks like it may move FWD! We the taxpayers will benefit!

    • Len Macdonald on

      It’s one thing to encourage “control and action” in municipal government but to achieve that by fiat by a Premier who never once mentioned that his platform included eliminating duly elected officials in Toronto and an almost duly elected official in Muskoka, is the sort of thing we would expect to see in countries run by dictators, not Ontario.

      Doesn’t the Premier have enough to do in running the province? Does he have to meddle in municipal affairs too? His blatant hatred of the Toronto voters (except for “Ford Nation” in Etobicoke) and his frustration at never getting the support and respect that he wanted at the Toronto City Council (despite the Major being his brother) is at the heart to his actions. He doesn’t care about the taxpayers. He is looking for what he thinks is a win during the early weeks of his “reign” at Queen’s Park. Hold on to your seats folks, this is going to be a bumpy ride.

  4. Robert Attfield on

    Mr Slater,
    You speak in cliches…the same kind of broad based, but unsubstantiated assertions that got this Conservative Government elected. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to back up your opinions with fact based information. I look forward to any future posts from you that offer specific, research supported view points

  5. Ford is doing what Mike Harris accomplished.
    Cut, Burn and slash.
    To heck with the people. Just colour me blue!

  6. Bob, Robert, Herber, etc etc … Here we go… an election is held..the PEOPLE voted and YOU all hate the results! Get over it .. and give him a chance to correct 14 years of Liberal mismanagement and scandals. You know what has happened and the mess the province is in! Lets measure him in 4 years .. with guess what .. another election.

  7. Karen Wehrstein on

    Never trust a politician who moves away from democracy in any way. He is *not* representing you or serving the public or watching out for your interests.

  8. Sheilah Forward on

    In 1978, I was Sheilah Hatch, Councillor Township of Muskoka Lakes, later to become Mayor and a District Councillor for the next 10 years. Hugh Mackenzie was District Chairman at that time. I wish I could post our inaugural photo. The discussion of the District Chairman being elected ‘at large’ was a discussion even in that time. Finally, 40 years later, it seemed to be about to be happening….and then suddenly, without consultation, this long desired response to our local community’s wishes is dashed. Definitely NOT democratic! Happy to see your response Hugh.

  9. Jim Logagianes on

    Why waste money electing someone if your intent is to dismantle an overpriced service system?
    The District was formed to download Provincial responsibilities onto Muskoka. The cost to run the District and maintain all Municipal infrastructure in each region is unaffordable and unsustainable.
    Our current population, even with our seasonal influx, can not maintain the level of services currently being provided. How much Government can we afford?

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