Clarington should become part of Northumberland County, rather than join with Port Hope and Hope Township, Cobourg Mayor Joan Chalovich said yesterday.
But it has no interest in Northumberland, Clarington Mayor Diane Hamre said.
Both mayors are responding to a proposal at county council last week by Hope Township Reeve Ian Angus. He made a notice of motion at county council; announcing plans to have the two most western municipalities are negotiating to join with Clarington. His proposal will not be fully debated by county politicians until next month.
Chalovich said Clarington might be better off becoming a new member of Northumberland since it would create a stronger municipality. It would also consolidate the county, rather than divide it.
She believes Clarington may not want to become part of Durham, and hence part of the urbanized Greater Toronto Area. Instead, it might want to be part of a county system where it could maintain its rural roots.
“If Clarington came into Northumberland, it might be an option they would be willing to consider,” she said. “It would mean we would not be as scattered.”
The suggestion has come a week after Angus Clarington was part of the United Counties of Durham and Northumberland when it was created in 1850 and remained part of the county until 1974 when Durham decided to become a region.
County politicians are very nervous about the possible flight of any municipality since Murray Township left to joined Quinte West three years ago. The county was hurt financially, leaving a bad taste for some politicians.
But it is not clear how serious Clarington is about joining with Port Hope and Hope. A study provided to the county shows it is looking at a number of partnerships including Uxbridge, and the townships of Scugog and Brock.
Cobourg is not prepared to intervene in the negotiations in any way, said Chalovich. She will wait until the next county council meeting in July to formally make her proposal.
“We are not prepared to rush in,” she said. “We want to have an opportunity to be one voice at the table.”
But she intends to float the idea in public as a trial balloon to measure reactions. Haldimand Township Reeve Bill Findlay has also made a similar suggestion.
“I will mention it here and any chances I get in the future,” she said.
The proposal by Chalovich is not aimed at further frustrating Hope or Port Hope. The communities have faced strained relations since the debate over the future of healthcare in West Northumberland County. Cobourg is the site for a new hospital. Port Hope’s hospital was closed.
“I want to make sure all the options are considered,” she said. “We do not want to interfere. They will go forward their plans. I want them to be aware of other possibilities. I also want a chance to sell this idea to the county.”
Hamre was caught off guard, saying Angus and Port Hope Mayor Ron Smith had an informal talk, but nothing substantial. The three municipal leaders are part of a low-level waste committee and meet regularly as part of those discussions. There was no plan to make anything public. The news of Angus’ motion was out of the blue.
“I was surprised,” she said. “As for joining the county, we have no interest in that. We are part of Durham. We have talked with two of our neighbours. We may have to leave the GTSB (Greater Toronto Services Board). That’s fine. But as for leaving Durham to join your county, we are not going to consider that at this time.”