To keep members informed, AMO provides updates on important issues considered at regular AMO Board of Directors’ meetings. Highlights of the January 2015 Board meeting include:

Social Assistance Management Systems (SAMS) Implementation problems
The AMO Board received an update on the continuing serious problems associated with the implementation of the new provincial Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) for municipal welfare administrators.  SAMS is negatively impacting client service, including employment assistance and causing extraordinarily large additional labour intensive administrative costs for municipal service managers and District Social Service Administration Boards (DSSABs).   AMO’s Board demands the government use all available means and resources to address the short and long-term implementation issues. In addition, province must reimburse municipalities + DSSABs for the all ongoing costs of SAMS’ implementation until each short and long-term implementation problem is resolved to mutual satisfaction.  AMO is working closely with OMSSA and will keep service providers updated on progress. .

Building Canada Fund - Provincial/Territorial Infrastructure Component (PTIC)
AMO recently became aware that a December 2014 letter sent to federal Minister Lebel from provincial Minister Duguid appears to confirm that there will be no municipal opportunity for project intake for PTIC funds.   AMO will be sending a letter immediately to express our great disappointment on this provincial decision while stressing the need for a stronger partnership on future funding program decisions.

LAS Update
LAS is launching a Residential Water/Wastewater Warranty Protection Program for municipal homeowners where the homeowner would pay a small monthly amount to warranty the repair or replacement of their utility service lines located between their residence and the municipal sewer/water main. The municipality must endorse the program but takes on no administration or risk and also helps homeowners who generally are unaware of their responsibilities on their property.  

Municipal Government Climate Change Survey Results
The Board was briefed on the municipal climate change survey results staff conducted with municipalities of 25,000+ populations.  This was done to help prepare for expected discussions on the Ontario Climate Change Strategy. The survey found that municipalities have been undertaking climate change mitigation and adaptation actions and are keen to do more, but identified the major obstacle of funding for infrastructure and other work.  A focus group will be conducted shortly for smaller municipalities to identify their interests and needs. A new AMO Task Force will be created to focus on the development of an AMO response to the expected Ontario Climate Change Strategy that is anticipated to be released soon.

Bill 52, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014 (Anti-SLAPP Legislation)
If passed, Bill 52 will create a new procedure for courts to dismiss Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP). AMO staff worked with members to develop principles which address the concerns of municipalities in both northern and southern Ontario by bringing balance and fairness to anti-SLAPP legislation. AMO staff met with staff from the Ministry of the Attorney General to discuss the proposed principles. It is not clear how the government will move forward with Bill 52 and whether it will be referred to a standing committee.   

Energy East: Pipeline Conversion from Gas to Oil
As part of the TransCanada Energy East project, there are plans to convert 1,925 kilometres of existing pipeline to oil, construct 104 kilometres of new pipeline, and build 30 pumping stations in Ontario.  The AMO Board will be providing feedback to the Ontario Energy Board highlighting the need for TransCanada to ensure current customers and economic growth will not be negatively impacted by the conversion. As well, TransCanada needs to ensure that a high standard of safety and spill prevention are in place so that this economic benefit may be realized without environmental impacts or reliance on municipal resources.

Revised Rural and Northern Lens
The “A Voice for Rural and Northern Ontario” discussion paper and the Rural and Northern Lens have been updated and will be launched at this year’s ROMA/OGRA Combined Conference in February. The purpose of the Lens is to assist policy developers, program managers and decision makers with considering the impacts of provincial initiatives on rural and northern municipalities. For more information, visit the ROMA website.

Project Green Light – Meeting with Members of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Gov’t Assets
The Province is considering the sale of Hydro One distribution assets.  AMO, working with the Energy Distributors Association, met with members of the Premier's Advisory Council on Government Assets to discuss Project Green Light.  This proposal provides an alternative to electricity delivery which could rationalize the current configuration and be more efficient and effective.   

MEPCO Update
The Board was updated on the current Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) consultation following the introduction of Bill 56 that sets out high level parameters of the new pension plan design.  MEPCO is looking at possible impacts on the municipal sector and a response to the province.