|The current number
of municipalities in Ontario is 444.
For a list of municipalities, click here.
How are these municipalities structured? It can vary.
Depending on its size and its history, a local municipality may be called a city, a town, or a township or a village. They are also referred to as "lower tier" municipalities when there is another level of municipal government like a county or region involved in providing services to residents. There are a number of separated towns and cities in Ontario although and they are geographically part of a county, they do not form part of county.
Where there is only one level of municipal government in an area, it is called a single tier municipality.
Examples of single tier municipalities: City of Chatham-Kent, City of Greater Sudbury , City of Hamilton, City of Ottawa and the City of Toronto.
Counties, Regions and Districts
Sometimes it is legislated or more efficient to provide certain services over an area that includes more than one local municipality. For this reason, counties (mainly in rural areas) or regions may be involved in providing services to residents and businesses.
A county or regional government is a federation of the local municipalities within its boundaries. District is another name that is sometimes used in Ontario. Only the District Municipality of Muskoka provides services on a regional-scale. Areas may use the term district but these are territorial boundaries that do not serve any municipal government purpose.
Counties, regions and the District of Muskoka are referred to as "upper tier" municipalities.
The unique characteristics of Northern Ontario have given rise to distinctive ways of providing services at the local government level as well.
In Northern Ontario, there are cities and towns, as well as one district and one regional municipality. There are also administrative ways of providing services to huge areas of land that have very few people in what are called "unincorporated" areas of Northern Ontario. District Social Service Administration Boards are a good example through which certain social services are delivered to Northern residents. Area Service Boards are another new approach that is possible. They can provide a means to deliver a range of municipal services across a broad geographic area.
The provincial government has been encouraging municipal governments to amalgamate with a view that municipal government provides services in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible. Some local governments have joined together voluntarily to achieve sustainable services and municipal infrastructure. In other cases, the province had facilitated amalgamations of municipalities through restructuring commissions and special advisors.
Since the mid-1990's, expansion of urban areas, changes in responsibilities of local government and provincial government initiatives have led to a massive wave of municipal mergers. The most important changes saw some counties and regional municipalities merge with their constituent local municipalities. As a result, the number of municipalities was reduced by more than 40 per cent between 1996 and 2004, from 815 to 445. In January of 2009, that number went to 444.
Amalgamations happened in Northern Ontario as well. There are no counties in the north. The typical amalgamation in the north involved the amalgamation of one or two municipalities and annexation of unincorporated territory. Some of the more significant restructurings that had occurred in the north are: the Township of Huron Shores (made up of four municipalities plus unincorporated territory); and the Township of Lake of the Woods (two municipalities plus unincorporated territory).
A provincial governance review of four regions has resulted in the creation of 5 single tier municipalities: the Cities of Ottawa, Greater Sudbury, and Hamilton; and the Towns of Haldimand and Norfolk.
For more information on restructuring, click to Municipal Restructuring, a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing reference page.
Other Municipal Groups
Municipalities have always looked for opportunities to implement more integrated systems of services inside municipal boundaries and between municipal neighbours.
It just makes sense to work cooperatively and take advantage of administration and program efficiencies that make services work better for people at the local level.
Consolidation of municipal service management has resulted in the creation of 47 Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs) across the whole province. In Northern Ontario, they are called District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSABs). In Southern Ontario, the CMSM area is frequently aligned along the upper tier boundary ( region or county) and does include a separated town or city if one exists within its geographic boundary. The service manager can be either the upper tier or the separated municipality.
Under municipal leadership, CMSMs are implementing a more integrated system of social and community health services for delivery of: