Provincial-Municipal Relations in Ontario: Approaching an Inflection Point
In Ontario, the history of provincial-municipal relations has progressed from the Baldwin Act of 1849 and the Depression years, to postwar boom and the tumultuous Local Services Realignment of the 1990s. At different points in Ontario’s history, the pressures of managing growth, economic restructuring, social and demographic change, environmental sustainability, and shifting public expectations of government have mounted until they reached an “inflection point” – forcing fundamental reforms in provincial-municipal arrangements.
Ontario is approaching another such inflection point. Three major trends are buffeting provincial-municipal arrangements. The first is a growing recognition of the role cities and metropolitan regions play as centres of growth and national prosperity. The second is increasing complexity in the provincial-municipal relationship. The third is the emergence of threats to the fiscal health of Ontario municipalities. These three trends are putting pressure on the scale and structure of governance arrangements and service delivery models in areas of shared provincial-municipal responsibility. As the past has demonstrated, periods of fiscal constraint, as the Government of Ontario is currently experiencing, can be the catalysts for reform.