August 2019
Backgrounder

Municipal governments cannot afford to be the insurer of last resort. The principle of joint and several liability is costing municipalities and taxpayers dearly, in the form of rising insurance premiums, service reductions and fewer choices. It is entirely unfair to ask property taxpayers to carry the lion’s share of a damage award when a municipality is found at minimal fault or to assume responsibility for someone else’s mistake.

At the same time, Councils are being forced to redirect property tax dollars to pay rising insurance premiums.  Earlier this month, it was reported the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury faces a 59% insurance cost increase for 2019. This is just one example.
Image of Joint and Several Liability definition
In January 2019, Premier Doug Ford announced the government would be launching a consultation with municipal governments. In July, the Attorney General, the Honourable Doug Downey, wrote to all Heads of Councils seeking municipal perspectives on joint and several liability, insurance costs, and “liability chill” affecting the delivery of public services. This month, AMO’s Joint and Several Liability Task Force met with government officials to start the conversation.

AMO welcomes this consultation and seeks municipal support in responding to the government’s request.  Liability reform represents a longstanding request of municipal governments.  In February 2014, MPPs from all parties supported a motion calling on the Province to reform joint and several liability.  Nearly 200 municipalities also supported the motion introduced by Randy Pettapiece, MPP for Perth-Wellington, which called on the government to implement a comprehensive, long-term solution. Municipal advocacy on this issue in no way intends for injured parties to be denied justice or damages through the courts.  

AMO encourages all municipalities to contribute to the consultation with as much information as possible. Please refer to Attorney General Hon. Doug Downey’s letter to Municipal Councils for more details on the consultation and policy development process. Municipalities have until September 27, 2019 to make their submission to magpolicy@ontario.ca. The AMO President would appreciate receiving a copy of your comments at amopresident@amo.on.ca.

For more background, please see AMO’s Liability Reform paper or view our 2011 Managing the Cost of Risk insurance survey results.