What the Region does for us (March 2023)
In my inaugural article last December, I introduced the fundamentals of Durham Region and how Uxbridge fits within it. The key takeaway was that the Region is 2,500 square kilometres and has a population of about 723,000. Uxbridge is approximately 420 square kilometres, about 17 per cent of the Region, and has a population of about 22,500, representing only three per cent of the Region.
Typically, residents understand the services provided by Uxbridge Township. The list includes maintaining local roads, running recreation programs, operating the library, pool and arena and providing community halls, managing development applications and enforcing bylaws, to name a few! These services are paid for by a combination of grants from higher levels of government, a portion of commercial property taxes, and about 27 per cent of residential property taxes. Approximately 57 per cent of residential property taxes are collected by the Township and forwarded directly to Durham Region. This article focuses on the wide-reaching, but often little-known, services provided by Durham Region.
One of the key purposes of establishing Regional government is to centralize services that would be incredibly expensive to provide locally. It’s inconceivable to think of how the eight Durham Region municipalities could provide the services that are supported by a $2.2 billion (2022) budget.
Let’s start with some of the more obvious services that affect our daily lives.
There are over 130km of regional roads in Uxbridge! The list includes Hwy. 47 (Toronto St.), and Reg. Rd. 8 (Brock and Reach Sts.), Brock Road (Coppin’s Corners), Reg. Rd. 13 (in Leaskdale and Zephyr), Reg. Rd. 1 (leading north from town), Reg. Rd. 39 (Zephyr), shared responsibility for York-Durham Line 30, Reg. Rd. 21 (Goodwood), and Reg. Rd. 11 (Sandford). Repairing, rebuilding and maintaining these roads requires major investment. During significant weather events such as the storms we see every winter, if residents must travel, they are encouraged to use regional roads. This is because the region has the staffing levels to provide snow clearing operation 24/7.
The second service most residents depend upon is waste management. The Region contracts bi-weekly garbage pick-up and weekly recycle and organics pick-ups. Major changes are coming to this service as the organics program expands and the blue box program gets rebuilt. The Region also provides yard waste pickup seasonally.
The next service urban residents rely on is the provision of safe drinking water and the management of sewage. Uxbridge is blessed with some of the best water in Durham Region. Fresh water is held in an underground reservoir at a facility on Concession 6. The wastewater treatment facility is located on Main St. north. There are also a number of pumping stations within the urban area to maintain water pressure. Durham Region also provides the kilometres of water and sewer pipes hidden under most roads. Few services are more important than maintaining the highest quality water. It’s worth a quick note that in the event of a watermain or sewage pipe break, residents should immediately call 311.
Uxbridge residents rely on good roads, waste management and clean water practically every day. In contrast, many of the services listed below are often invisible on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it could be stated that the less a resident is aware of, or is utilizing these services, the more blessed their lives are. These services are critical to the safety and social fabric of Uxbridge and all of Durham Region.
Durham Region Police Services (DRPS) provides services ranging from attending large public events to critical tactical services during the darkest of events. These brave women and men are always available. Remember the saying “Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there”? That’s them. There are approximately 950 officers in Durham Region, as well as over 300 civilian support employees. The North Division precinct is located on Hwy. 12, south of Reach Rd. Officers dispatched from this location are responsible for Uxbridge, Brock and Scugog Townships, a vast area.
Social services are the second biggest operating budget cost after DRPS. They include the Durham Regional Local Housing Corporation and Durham Region Non-Profit Housing Corporation; child services, family services, income and employment services, and long-term care. During our new council orientation, regional councillors were introduced to some of the incredibly sensitive services these highly trained individuals provide every day. I’m looking forward to sharing those insights in a future column.
Next week I’ll continue to detail the many services provided by Durham Region.
Introducing – the Region! (December 2022)
A person can learn a lot by visiting 6,000 households during an election campaign. When I knocked on doors or met with larger groups in multi-unit buildings, I gained a real sense of what is important to Uxbridge residents. I also learned there is an opportunity to provide a better understanding of the role of Durham Regional government.
In a series of candid columns, I hope to accomplish a series of goals. Initially the intent will be to simply provide a sense of the structure of Durham’s regional government. Future articles will delve into elements such as the breadth of investment and services Uxbridge Township receives from the Region. Given we are part of, and support the Region, it is also important to understand the broader perspective of what is happening throughout Durham Region.
As a matter of transparency, the Cosmos and I agreed that I wouldn’t be compensated for the columns, nor would the Township nor the Region pay for the space. We also agreed that we would judge the success of the initiative and decide if it should continue for the entire term of council.
So, let’s get started with an overview of the Durham Region and how Uxbridge fits! Durham Region is about 2,500 square kilometers. It stretches from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe, which is about 75 km ‘as the crow flies’. The east-west distance stretches from well beyond Hwy. 115 to the York-Durham line, which amounts to over 60 km. To provide perspective, Durham Region is similar is size to the country of Luxembourg, half the size of Prince Edward Island and is more than five times the size of Barbados!
Uxbridge Township represents about 17 per cent of Durham Region area and is a sprawling 420 square kilometers.
Durham Region consists of eight municipalities – Uxbridge, Brock, Scugog (North Durham), Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa and Clarington. The Region’s 2021 population was 723,000. The biggest city is Oshawa at 182,000 and Whitby the second largest at over 144,000. Here in North Durham, Brock is 13,000 and Scugog and Uxbridge are very similar at about 22,500 each.
Simple math shows Uxbridge represents 17 per cent of the region’s land area but only about three per cent of the population. Together the three northern townships represent over 50 per cent of the geographic area but only eight per cent of the population.
Uxbridge, Scugog and Brock each elect one regional councillor. This individual remains an active member of their local council and also represents their Township at Durham Region. The mayors of each township are automatically selected to regional council.
The municipalities to the south elect their representatives either by municipal ward or at-large. The southern municipalities are represented as follows (including mayors); Oshawa 6, Whitby 5, Pickering 4, Ajax 4 and Clarington 3. In total, Durham Region Council consists of 20 regionally elected councillors plus eight mayors and one elected chair.
Much like local Uxbridge council, regionally elected officials are assigned specific committee responsibilities. It was recently announced Mayor Barton will be the chair of Durham Region Public Works. I am assigned to the Finance & Administration committee. I have also been assigned the role of a commissioner on Durham Region Transit.
The regional role also involves providing representation with the conservation authorities. I will represent Uxbridge at the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) and the Central Lakes Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA).
In future columns, I will begin to detail the broad spectrum of services provided by Durham Region. I will also identify which services are offered in Uxbridge and outline how to connect to services that are centralized in other communities. I’ll also outline the recently announced 311 service that provides a simple way to get connected to any regional department.
I wish all residents of Uxbridge a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. From my family to yours, we wish everyone a healthy and happy 2023.