Remarks by Peter Hume, AMO President and Councillor, City of Ottawa. 2010 Ontario West Municipal Conference, December 9, 2010. Four Points by Sheraton London, London, ON.
(Check Against Delivery)

Good morning.

On behalf of AMO I want to welcome you to the Conference and thank the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for hosting it with us.

I am AMO’s recently returned President.  

Last August, at our annual AMO Conference in Windsor, AMO members elected Norman Sandberg to serve as President for two years.  Unfortunately, Norm was not re-elected to his municipal council and he had to step down.  

Norm was disappointed.  So were we.  He would have been a great President and we wish him well.  

Next August, AMO delegates will meet here in London for our 2011 Annual Conference.  We will elect a new President at that time – and you are invited to join us.

Last year’s conference in Windsor was fantastic – and London is excited to be hosting the next one.

The Annual AMO Conference is a big deal.  The three day program draws more than 2,000 people.  Most are elected officials from all three orders of government.

It creates important opportunities to learn, share information and connect with others.  

This conference does the same thing on a smaller scale.

The learning opportunities we create for municipal leaders are important.

Municipalities provide most of the services that people use and depend on every day – police, fire, waste collection, water, sewage, social services, roads, transit, and parks and rec.  

We do all that and more – and we do it all with about 10 per cent of taxes that people pay.

It’s important that we make the most of what we have – and stay on top of changes.

To that end, I encourage you to make sure you get AMO’s weekly Watchfile.  

Every Thursday morning, AMO sends out an e-mail that summarizes what’s happening – and what’s about to happen.

It shares provincial and federal news, policy updates, and conference and training information.  Municipalities are also using it to share resolutions and employment opportunities.  

If you are not already connected, contact us to register.

In the coming months, municipalities would be wise to keep a close eye on the Watchfile.

Provincial elections are on the horizon – and Federal elections can happen any time.  

We can expect new initiatives and new ideas.  Most will have price tags attached to them, one way or another.

The Ontario and Federal Government both say their cupboards are bare.

Well, so is mine and so is yours.  

Whether it`s changes to waste management, housing, electricity, infrastructure – or a dozen other files – AMO is urging other orders of government to tread carefully and consider the affect on municipal services and budgets.

You can be sure that AMO is watching closely and we will be speaking up when needed.

Last month, Ontario’s Minister of Finance delivered an economic statement.  We were pleased that it respected commitments to upload more than one billion of costs from the municipal property tax base, on schedule and according to the roadmap we designed together in 2008. 

AMO is committed to keeping that agreement. 

Next Spring we will be looking for a provincial budget that does the same.

A new affordable housing strategy has been tabled. It begins to implement one of several streamlining initiatives of the 2008 Joint Fiscal and Service Delivery Review – but there are no new dollars.  Collectively we need to convince the Federal government to extend the current housing programs which are to end March 2011.  Large or small, urban or rural – we share an affordable housing challenge. 

Lately, we have been alerting the public to concerns about waste management.

New Councillors will have heard of what some have called “eco taxes”.

We want to make sure that you also know them by their real name, which is “eco fees”.  

Businesses and industries pay eco fees to fund the safe disposal of their electronic products and tires – and others pay for 50 per cent of the Blue Box program.  The fees are set by industry organizations.  
Not one cent goes to the Government of Ontario.

Without these fees, it is your property taxpayers that would pay the entire bill themselves – and industries would have no incentives to recycle and reduce their waste. 

We don`t think the public knows that.

They need to know that Ontario is running out of landfills. 

They need to know that 90 per cent of the landfills that we had 20 years ago are filled up.

Typically communities oppose new landfills and incinerators.  Even in a willing community, a landfill can take 20 years to approve and build.

And, most of all, people need to know that the alternative to eco fees is higher property taxes. 

AMO believes that people who make, sell and buy products should accept individual responsibility for their disposal costs.  
That is the key to safer products, smarter packaging and greater waste diversion.  

Why should the wasteful and polluting practices of others be subsidized by property taxpayers?  Seniors on fixed incomes should not be paying the disposal fee of the ipod that I am buying my daughter.  I think that is just wrong.  

Last week, newspapers ran – and paid for – ads that spelled out the ‘Heap of Trouble’ that we will be in if we do not embrace waste diversion.  We hope that you will all help us spread that message to the public.  If we don’t, you will have to find a way to pay for it in your budgets. 

I`ve touched on just a few challenges that demand municipal leadership.

There are many more – as this conference will highlight.

The stronger AMO is, the more we can all accomplish together.

AMO`s policies are shaped by your participation.  Our shared successes are achieved through your support.  And your municipality`s membership is appreciated.

We hope that you will take full advantage of the services that we offer – and we look forward to seeing you in London again next August. 

Enjoy the rest of the conference.