04/07/2009

2009 AMO Urban Symposium, Courtyard Marriott, Brampton, Ontario. April 7, 2009.
Peter Hume, AMO President and
Councillor, City of Ottawa
2009 AMO Urban Symposium
April 7, 2009 at 8:30 a.m.
Courtyard Marriott
90 Biscayne Crescent
Brampton, Ontario

(Check Against Delivery)

Thank you for attending AMO’s second annual Urban Symposium.

Much has changed since our first symposium in Spring 2008.

This time last year, we were in Windsor.  Today, Windsor is reeling from a global recession that has hammered our auto and manufacturing industries. 

And they are not alone.

Ontario’s communities, workers and families are facing significant challenges.

In response, we are investing billions into infrastructure, to kick start a recovery. 

The Ontario Government is promoting a transformation to a smarter, greener economy – and proposes significant changes to taxation.  

Business taxes are being shifted in favour of a harmonized consumption tax, which may reflect the uncertain future of traditional industries.

While we are at the mercy of global forces, Ontario is becoming increasingly urban – and the woes of the world are showing up at our front door.  

This symposium will speak to some of our new urban challenges – and others that we know well.

There are common threads in much of what we will be discussing.

First, we are looking at complex challenges:

 Economic development
 Immigration
 Aboriginal relations
 Youth violence
 Productive workplaces

You are not going to find “Cole’s Notes” answers to any of these problems.

While simple solutions are welcome, we all know that they are rare.

Secondly, many of these problems are interconnected.  

Productivity increases economic growth.  

Economic growth creates opportunity. 

Opportunity reduces homelessness, crime and youth violence, which in turn increases productivity.

Addressing one problem well can improve situations across the board.

Personally, I have been very interested in what my home town (Ottawa) can do to address homelessness.  Because if we get that right, we do more than just help people find basic shelter.

We will increase employment, improve public health, strengthen families, improve education, give kids a better life, and cut down on crime.

Our challenges are connected.

Unfortunately, it’s common for public services to be delivered in silos.  Responsibilities are divided by jurisdictions between governments and departments within governments.

So it is my hope that cooperation will be another common thread in our discussion.

I’m pleased to say we have momentum in that regard. 

The parties at Parliament Hill have cast aside brinkmanship in favour of a more cooperative relationship.

Political pundits have been quick to point out that Jim Flaherty’s recent Conservative budget had more in common with a Bob Rae budget than a Mike Harris budget.

Federal and Provincial relations have improved remarkably.

A couple of weeks ago, Premier McGuinty introduced a budget that set aside differences and supported Minister Flaherty’s call for lower business taxes.

Some of you may have even heard Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, George Smitherman, comment that he didn’t expect to find a friend in Federal Transportation and Infrastructure Minister John Baird, but he has.

Thankfully, the desire for integration, cooperation and coordination is there and it’s growing among all three orders of government.

Municipalities have lead that charge and it’s been in our best interest to do so.  AMO meets with the Province regularly and we have developed a productive working relationship.

The best expression of this has been the Joint Provincial and Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review, which we completed last fall. 

Don’t let the catchy title fool you.  It was an important milestone in Provincial-Municipal relations.

We worked together, cooperatively, for the better part of two years to build more sustainable and fair cost-sharing arrangements.

If you have not read the report, I encourage you to. Many of your colleagues put a tremendous amount of work into it and the report is not gathering dust.

It has already resulted in hundreds of millions in annual cost uploads and billions in infrastructure investment.

These are the most well known outcomes, and they affect urban municipalities directly.

However, through the Review, we also managed to create an important shift in the way human services are approached in Ontario. 

The Review calls for the consolidation of more than 28 different housing and homelessness programs and 28 funding silos.  In their place, we are working to create “outcome-focused” housing services that are managed through municipalities, according to local needs.

In effect, we are shifting the emphasis to achieving practical results that improve lives, rather than viewing social services as generic programs to be delivered according to a provincial plan, for better or worse.

The move recognizes that Brampton, Toronto and Thunder Bay are all very different places with different needs.

Of course, this also moves the Province away from its prescriptive Social Housing Reform Act, which told municipalities how to deliver services.

The Province realizes that we can achieve more through flexibility, local initiative and better integration of all public services.

I have often said that I’m drawn to municipal service because that’s where things actually happen.  

Municipalities are the front line.  We touch people’s lives most directly.

In that sense, municipalities hold the key to integration.

Our Provincial and Federal governments can do a great deal to support integration, but they need our piece of the puzzle to achieve it.

We also provide a link to integrating other partners in our communities.

AMO recently created an Economic Development Task Force that is bringing together government representatives, economic development agencies and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.  We hope to work together to improve teamwork and coordination.

This model can be applied locally and regionally.  

Increasingly, municipalities understand that competing with one another for economic development offers less hope and less opportunity than working in partnership to grow regional economies and a prosperous province.
 
As an Association, we also promote integration by working closely with our members, other orders of government and other municipal organizations.

This conference is part of that commitment and we have great line up presenters. I can promise you that you will leave here with plenty to think about. 

You are going to learn about strategies to build a more productive workforce.

Adam Gopnik, an author and writer for The New Yorker will speak to what makes cities thrive.  I think it is particularly important that Adam has witnessed New York City’s strategies to overcome 9-11.

Steve Meikle from the District of Saanich will speak to the Global Age Friendly Cities Project which is being lead by the World Health Organization.

Michael Chan, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, will speak to us over lunch... and Alan Broadbent will follow with a discussion of how cities can maximize the potential of newcomers.

Anna Gibbon will speak to her experience in Urban Aboriginal Relations in Thunder Bay.

And finally, Roy McMurtry will give his timely insights on youth engagement.

But first we will start with A-joe-a  Bo-hen-nee and an exploration of human resources from a generational perspective. 

We have a strong slate of presenters and AMO is pleased to be able to provide this forum.

I want to thank the presenters for their contributions, but I also want to thank all of you for attending.

Obviously, your participation makes this conference possible.

Take as much from it as you can – and please tell your colleagues about this symposium, so that we can provide more opportunities in the future.

Thank you.