Since 1991 Canada and Ukraine have shared a close relationship, when Canada was the first western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence. The third Ukraine Reform Conference from 2 – 4 July not only gave both countries the chance to strengthen their ties and honour Ukraine's achievements in its recent reforms, it also gave 24 elected heads of amalgamated hromadas the opportunity to see Canada's decentralisation in action over the course of two days full of visits to councils, initiatives, commissions and communities in the province of Ontario. The municipalities of Chatham-Kent and Prince Edward County were selected as destinations for two study tours for the hromada heads, whose visits to Canada were supported by U-LEAD with Europe and DOBRE Programmes, as well as DESPRO and PLEDDG Projects.
Twenty years into their own amalgamation, the municipalities offered ample chances for honest and open discussions, field trips, site visits and case studies on lessons learned for the visitors from Ukraine. The elected heads of Ukrainian amalgamated communities could see for themselves good practices for effective post-amalgamation governance, citizens’ engagement, local economic development and service provision for communities. In the municipality Chatham-Kent, visitors visited the Mayor's Office and discussed the pros and cons of amalgamation, transparency of local government and infrastructure funding with experts from various levels of local self-government. Further stops included a tour of the RM Sotheby’s Classic Car Restoration facility, Erieau Marina, Bayside Brewery, a tour of Erie Beach Water Treatment Plant and Bloomfield Business Park.
Prince Edward County's Mayor Steve Ferguson welcomed participants to a series of talks by various members of the county council. Starting with the question of identity in the reality of amalgamation, the day covered a broad spectrum of issues and perspectives. From amalgamating museums to the face of local economic development to keeping the momentum going to surviving Canada's winters and how amalgamation affects wastewater services, the Ukrainian delegates were encouraged to participate and learn from local representatives invited to represent all walks of life, be it local economic development, infrastructure management, tourism, waste management and history and culture.
Denys Korotenko, Shyrokivska rural AH, Zaporizhzhia Oblast: I liked the approach of community deputies in Canadian villages. They are completely aware of the state of affairs in the community, each is in charge of his/her own direction, commissions penetrate in the needs of people and are jointly working on their solution. Many decisions are made together with the residents, who are actively involved in the processes. For example, the Prince Edward County community in Canada we had the chance to visit records statistics and sees that its population is aging and they decided to leave 4 out of 6 schools for 25,000 people. Residents support this decision and, by optimising costs, the community gets the opportunity to develop schools technologically and professionally, to raise the quality of education.
Vadym Haiev, Novopskovska settlement AH, Luhansk Oblast: The ongoing conference in Canada is an extremely important international event that will enable the expert level to discuss the course of reforms in our country! Canada is an important partner of Ukraine in the development and support of the changes that Ukrainians implement. This format of the meeting provides an opportunity to make decisions on cooperation and learn more about business and investment opportunities in Ukraine, which is extremely important for attracting additional resources on the ground.
Tamara Kirian, Pyrohy village starosta, Hlobynska AH, Poltava Oblast: It is worth noting that the canvas of modern development of the Prince Edward County is organically permeated with preservation and enhancement of the cultural heritage. The five existing museums are integrated into the mobile network of interaction and mutual support. The council introduced the post of manager who takes care of historical sites. This experience of preserving and integrating the historical heritage is important for accelerating the decentralisation processes in Ukraine, as the study of the past helps to identify hromada’s uniqueness, competitive advantages, destroys Soviet stereotypes and forms a high level of responsibility for decision-making.
Taras Hordiichuk, Ostrozhetska rural AH, Rivne Oblast: Today we had a great opportunity to hear from the mayor of Prince Edward County about amalgamation that took place in the district 25 years ago. It's pleasant to know that ordinary people are actively involved in community development.
Oleh Horbatiuk, Rukshynska rural AH, Chernivtsi Oblast: Acquaintance with the work of the Prince Edward County Council has led to reflections on the number of deputies in our councils, since for 25 thousand residents of the county there are only 12 deputies in the council (this is one of the most numerous councils in the province). Such work platforms are extremely important for sharing experience of amalgamation and civil society formation, as it gives us the opportunity to avoid certain mistakes.
Chatham-Kent municipality consists of seven population centres that merged in 1998. Prince Edward County in southern Ontario by Lake Ontario may be called a county, but is a municipality. Its current council structure formed in 1997 after a merger of the original county and ten former towns, villages and townships.
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