Both the City of Brantford council and the County of Brant council have unanimously endorsed the re-establishment of the Joint City-County Shared Services Committee during their respective Committee of the Whole meetings on Tuesday, September 5, 2023.
The last time a Joint City-County Shared Services Committee existed was around 2018, however it was not renewed by the County at that time.
This new committee will be made up of five members (one per ward) of each council including councillors Rose Sicoli, John Sless, Dan McCreary, Linda Hunt and Mandy Samwell from the City of Brantford, and councillors Jennifer Kyle, Lukas Oakley, John Bell, Robert Chambers and Brian Coleman of the County of Brant.
Kevin Davis, City of Brantford Mayor and David Bailey, Mayor of the County of Brant will act as Ex-Officio members, meaning that while they are not official members, they will still hold influence within the committee.
The Joint City-County Shared Services Committee will look to explore opportunities for service and interest sharing as well as improvements, and to make recommendations to the two councils.
Both the County and the City share a multitude of services such as social services, Provincial offenses, Business Resource Centre, mutual aid, rural water quality, infrastructure agreements, tourism activities, animal control, park maintenance, sports recognition, economic development and more.
Mayor Davis noted that the initiative was discussed throughout the summer between himself and Mayor Bailey, as well as the respective CEOs, and is an important opportunity.
“The hope of us who were involved in this, is that it’s going to create a vehicle or procedure for the County and the City to work together much more closely in providing improved services to the residents of both the city and the county and doing it more efficiently,” said Davis.
He said that some examples of shared services could be organic waste collection, automated speed control, delivery of water and sanitary and stormwater services, especially in the areas that overlap. Davis also mentioned that while he didn’t want to prejudge the committee issues, it could include considering services or infrastructure that don’t currently exist including transit between the City and County, as well as an integrated regional rail system.
Davis noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need and a benefit for a joint response that brought the two communities together.
The Brantford Mayor made it clear that this does not mean the City and County are looking to discuss or consider amalgamation or a merging of the two.
“I’ve said that repeatedly to the County that that’s not on my agenda and it won’t be so long as I’m the Mayor. My argument to the County is that if we can show the province that there’s more we can do together and efficiently to improve the services for our residents and lessen the load on our taxpayers, that they won’t bother us,” he said. “It’s problem areas in the province that they focus on, like regions that are having difficulty getting along. So, if we can demonstrate that we here in the City and in the County can do things and do them well together, I don’t ever see any prospect of there being an amalgamation or merger.”
He said most importantly, “it’s just about doing the right thing by residents and for some issues that clearly need to be planned for and addressed and dealt with on a regional basis.”
Both groups of council mentioned that this is not the first time a joint committee has existed, though it is the first time it has been equally represented on both sides.
“I think there are lots of items that we can work through,” said County Coun. John Bell. “I think having five members from each council will give us enough breadth of input. We don’t have to agree on everything, but I think we can come to a common consensus.”
County Councillor Robert Chambers noted that while a committee like this has not always worked, he wished the committee luck this time around. Mayor Bailey said that while he is wary, through his discussions with the City, he has worked hard to make sure that the committee would be fair.
“We just said, it’s got to be right and it has to be fair. If it works, it works, so we’ll take the best of it away from it. I don’t know that it has anything to do with buying airports or changing police services or anything like that, it’s about whatever good can come out of it,” said Bailey. “It’s hard for me to support this, I think you all know that, but I will support it because they’ve promised to be as fair as can be and we do need to do something to get our people to know that there is communication between the County and the City.”