Remarks by Peter Hume, AMO President and Councillor of City of Ottawa, August 16, 2010, 2010 Annual AMO Conference. Caesars Windsor, Windsor, ON.
(Check Against Delivery)

Welcome to Windsor!  And welcome to the 2010 AMO Conference. 

Some of you have come a long way to be here today, and we appreciate that. The same is true of AMO.

It has come a long way since 1899 – and the sophistication of this conference speaks to that.
Over the next two and a half days you will have the opportunity to choose from more than 60 plenary sessions and workshops.  In total, we have close to 100 presenters.

Even a quick look at our program will take a while.

Your support for AMO, and your attendance in great numbers, makes it possible.

Obviously, this conference is only part of what AMO does.  Much of AMO’s most important work happens behind the scenes.  Sometimes, significant gains are achieved that few people even see.A great example occurred a few months ago.

In the first week of May, we discovered that Province’s budget bill that would open the door to “OHIP subrogation”.

OHIP what?

As simply as I can put it, changes to the Insurance Act would have transferred OHIP costs to municipalities, if municipal road authorities were found to be liable for contributing to a person’s injury.

Changing two words in the Act would have made it possible – and it would have cost municipalities millions in settlements and insurance premiums.

Thankfully, AMO’s relationship with the Province is strong enough that we could point out the problem and have it fixed.

Within a week, the proposal was dropped from the Act.

This is also a reminder of how far AMO has come.

Many of you will remember a time when municipalities had to fight tooth and nail for change – even when the need was obvious.

We knew there was a better way – and that the public expects their governments to work together.

And over the past decade we have made remarkable strides in this regard.

Mutual respect and better cooperation has served us all well.

Our world is not perfect of course, but AMO is continuously striving to improve relations between the three orders of government.

Today the Premier will be here to address us. 

Tomorrow, almost all of Cabinet will join us – and you will be able to ask them any question you want in an open forum.

By all means, ask tough questions.

Frank discussions are the now the norm in our current relationship. 

This conference alone will facilitate about 265 delegation meetings with Ministers and Ministry staff.

In a way, these meetings reflect AMO’s MOU process with the Province.

The Memorandum of Understanding Agreement (MOU) promotes consultation between the Province of Ontario and AMO when statutory or regulatory changes may have significant impact on municipal budgets.

The MOU started out as a good idea in 2001 and it was enshrined into the Municipal Act in 2005.

It provides a foundation for regular, frank discussions on just about every facet of the province’s relationship with municipalities.

It was also a springboard to the Joint Fiscal and Service Delivery Review that we undertook with the Province, starting in late 2006.

After two years – and a mountain of hard work on both sides – we negotiated a viable plan to upload 1.5 billion dollars worth of annual costs from the municipal property tax base by 2018.

The infrastructure conclusions of the report were groundbreaking – literally groundbreaking.

It is not a stretch to say that every additional dollar of infrastructure funding we have received since 2008 owes at least some thanks to the fiscal review.

The 2008 report proved that it would take $6 billion of new funding every year for 10 years to close Ontario’s infrastructure deficit.

That opened doors with both the Ontario government and the federal government when they needed a vehicle to stimulate Canada’s economy.

Not only have we achieved unprecedented uploads and infrastructure investment, but we have managed both in the face of a deep global recession.

We applauded the Province for standing by their uploading agreements with us in the 2010 Budget – and we will applaud them when they do it again in their 2011 Budget.

It would have been easier for them to fight the recession on our backs, but that’s an experiment that’s been tried before, and we all know it failed.

We understand and appreciate the challenges that the province faces – and thanks to the work we have done together – they have a greater appreciation of the challenges that we are facing.

We saw that last week when the Premier urged the federal government to extend the March 31 deadline to complete economic stimulus projects.

Everywhere I’ve gone in Ontario, there is scaffolding at community centres, pipes and digging for new sewer and water systems, sidewalks torn up, detours and reduced lanes on bridges.

The Canadian and Ontario Governments boast about their funding.  However, far too little is mentioned about our municipal share.  After all, these infrastructure investments require municipalities to provide at least one third of the funding.

It has not been easy for municipalities to come up with their contribution.  And everyone knows that municipalities have been working as fast as possible to complete them.  By our estimate, about 95 per cent are on schedule.

At the same time, everyone knows it would be wrong to leave any municipality in the lurch if the deadline is not met.

The loss of funding would have a devastating impact on municipalities – and the Ontario Government has already voiced its interest in avoiding that.

That’s helpful.  In the meantime we will continue to work with the Federal Government and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to ensure that you are supported.

The other priority file right now is waste diversion. 

This file is extremely important to municipalities.  We appreciate the Province’s commitment to the principle, despite opposition.  And we are urging it to stay the course and introduce the progressive Waste Diversion Act that we all know is desperately needed.

Ontario is running out of landfills, it would be logistically and politically impossible to add new landfill capacity quickly, and we know that waste diversion is much smarter and safer than digging.

The number of operating landfills in Ontario has dropped by 90 per cent in the past 20 years.
In 1989 there were 730.  Today there are just 81.

As many of you know too well, it takes a generation, a willing community and a lot of tax dollars to build or expand one. 

Diversion is the only answer to deal with the waste we already produce.

Each year, property taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with wasteful packaging and toxic products.

With AMO’s strong support, the Province is working to make manufacturers responsible for paying these waste management costs themselves.

This will encourage industry to create safer products, reduce packaging and use more recyclable materials. It will also help reduce a growing burden on property taxpayers.

Most importantly, it would divert countless tons of garbage from our landfills.

Divert or dig?  Take your pick… because if we cannot convince our constituents to accept waste diversion, we will have to convince them to accept the construction of new landfills, or the expansion of old landfills.

We cannot afford to let waste become a political football.

We must have prudent policies that plan for the future.

I certainly don’t want to explain to my young daughter that we failed to plan for her generation because the 2011 election was just around the corner. 

AMO is urging the Province to introduce and pass its new Waste Diversion Act without delay – and we have expressed the urgency to all parties at Queen’s Park.

The Act would extend producer responsibility for blue box funding to industry, making them fully responsible for the cost of the Blue Box program.

It’s a successful program that the public has embraced.  However, it should reward manufacturers who make more environmentally sensitive products and packaging and allocate appropriate waste management costs to those who do not.

One thing I have learned at AMO is that you have to know when to be patient, when to push and when to fight.

We know that we can change our Province for the better when we stand together.

It is my hope that AMO will continue to bring its strength to the effort to improve social service delivery, to help more people in need, and ultimately, end homelessness in Ontario.

These are just some of the dozens of policy files that AMO works on.  This conference and its many sessions reveal many more areas municipalities must be involved in.

I encourage all of you to participate in the association so that it can serve your needs more effectively. 

AMO is what we all make of it – and it is strongest when we all support each other through it. 
Tomorrow, you will choose a new president. 

Both candidates have been strong assets to AMO’s Board and the Association at large.
They both deserve our thanks for showing interest in the job.

It is not an easy one.

It takes time, patience, some courage, and a lot of air miles to do it justice.

Still, I have been lucky to have had the honour to lead AMO’s Board.

There are many people I want to thank, starting with AMO’s past presidents, who continue to offer their service and counsel – and our Secretary-Treasurer, Jim Pine from Hastings County.
I need to thank all of AMO’s diverse board members. There are 42 of us in all, from every corner of Ontario.

I cannot say enough good things about Pat Vanini and her staff.  We are blessed to have them.
My Council colleagues and staff in Ottawa have also been tremendously supportive.

And then there is my family – my wife Ann Marie and my young Daughter Helen.

Anyone who has ever put their name on a ballot knows that their family will sometimes be called on to make sacrifices of one kind or another. 

Ann Marie has been extremely patient with me these past two years and she has had to hold the fort more times than I can remember.
My daughter Helen and I have both enjoyed her crash course in Ontario geography over the past two years. 

Whenever I packed a bag, we would talk about where I was going… and on my return we would talk about what I’d seen.

The Starbucks in the Safeway in Fort Frances (what a great idea);

My road-trip to Iroquois Falls to talk about roads (and the challenge of maintaining them in the North);

The UFO in Moonbeam;

Helen loved my stories about Kapuskasing but she wouldn’t try the deer meat;

She was as surprised as I was that Stratford got a portable water fountain truck for community events faster than Ottawa could;

There were the kind gifts from Marathon to assist Helen’s school project on water;

And there were countless more anecdotes from Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Cornwall, Kingston, Ajax, Brampton, Hamilton, Toronto (more times than I can remember)…

And now, I have the pleasure to end my term here in Windsor.

Thank you for the opportunity to be your President.  It has been a wonderful ride.

Enjoy the conference.