Remarks for AMO President Peter Hume, 2011 Annual AMO Conference. London Convention Centre, London, Ontario. August 22, 2011.

(Check Against Delivery)

Each year this conference draws the Premier, opposition leaders, most of Ontario’s Cabinet, Federal Government ministers, and senior government staff.

There is good reason for that.


You are the reason.

You are an audience of leaders.

As I have travelled this province as your President – from Red Lake to Niagara on the Lake – I’ve seen first-hand the inspiring work that you do.

Your work is critical to the success of Canada’s largest province, and by extension, the country.

No government touches people’s lives more directly than municipal government.

You are influential.

Efforts to gain your support in this fall’s election are in full swing. 

Our Association is strictly non-partisan.  We do not endorse candidates or parties.  In fact, our membership is made up of politically active people from parties of all stripes.

Our overriding goals are good municipal government, cooperation between governments, and mutual respect.

We believe in speaking clearly... and listening carefully.

That is what we will be doing over the next three days – and as we head into the election period. 

This is no place for campaign slogans.  We are here for thoughtful discussion about where Ontario needs to go -- and how.

We know that “how you do it” determines the success or failure.

To that end we invited all three party leaders to join former Queens Park reporter April Lindgren for an interview, on-stage, after their remarks.  Two of the three leaders accepted that invitation. 

The opportunity allows us to explore priority issues and their vision for the future.

AMO has met with all the party leaders to explain our interests and needs. 

We’ve summarized our priorities into a checklist of ‘12 asks’.           

It proposes policies and changes that would strengthen municipal authority, to help us invest in communities and improve people’s lives.

We mailed this checklist to every elected municipal official last month. 

We also posted it on AMO’s website – along with expanded detail about each priority, platform analysis and relevant announcements.

Our ‘12 Asks’ only scratch the surface of the work we do.  At any given time, AMO works on more than 50 policy files.

The depth of our advocacy work is shown, in part, at this conference.  But even this conference does not allow us time to explore them all.

I’ll highlight three top priorities as we head into this fall’s election.

The first and most obvious is uploading of $1.5 billion in annual social service and court security costs by 2018.

This is fundamental. 

Municipalities need to know that the 2008 agreement to upload these costs will be honoured, year after year, as scheduled.

We are 65 per cent of the way to having the agreed upon social service costs uploaded – along with provincial contributions to court security costs.

Everyone knows that the upload will remove provincial costs that do not belong on our limited tax base.

Countless municipal plans and investments depend on this upload schedule. 

For example, every federal or provincial dollar invested in economic stimulus was matched by a municipal dollar – or more.  Municipalities banked on the upload when they gave their share.

We didn’t get everything we needed in the Review – such as an upload of social housing costs.  However, in light of fiscal realities, we are much better off than we were.

The Review is part of a cooperative effort to help Ontario’s municipalities meet their responsibilities and balance their budgets. 

To date, we are still waiting to see a party platform that promises to honour the upload commitment.  Hopefully, the intentions of each party will be clear by the end of this conference.

During the 1980s and 90s, all three political parties had a hand in the punishing download of more than 5,000 km of provincial highways.

Municipalities couldn’t afford that costs then, and we can’t afford them now. 

Consider the City of Kenora. 

It needs to repair two bridges over the Winnipeg River and Keewatin Lake.

They are big – and they connect Kenora to everywhere else.

If the town doesn’t find at least $7 million to repair them, they will have to be closed in 5 years, if not sooner.

15,000 people live in Kenora. 

Some day these bridges will have to be replaced -- at an estimated cost of $60 to $90 million.

That is about $6,000 for every man, woman and child in town.

AMO has been working with the Ministry of Transportation to look at the long-term sustainability of municipal roads and bridges.

We all know that places like Kenora cannot afford to finance essential work on their own, limited tax bases.  That is why AMO is calling for a separate, new, predictable and permanent fund for municipal roads and bridges.

A concurrent session at this conference will share preliminary analysis from AMO’s work with the Ministry of Transportation.  If you are having trouble finding this session, follow my friend Dave Canfield.  He’s the Mayor of Kenora.

AMO’s fourth “ask” is permanent provincial gas tax revenue. 

We current receive about $318 million for transit, under a transfer that began in 2007.  It makes sense to share this revenue on a permanent and predictable basis. 

Once again, individual municipalities do not have the fiscal capacity to invest in public transit systems on their own.  This is true of any city, anywhere in the world.

We know it will be hard for any government to provide new funding in the current economy. 

That is why a number of AMO’s “asks” wouldn’t cost the province a dime.  In fact, they might save a few.

Arbitration and insurance reform are two examples. 

Last January – at a time when no reasonable person would expect significant wage and benefit increases – an arbitrator awarded firefighters in Fort Frances a 16% wage increase over 4 years, plus better recognition pay, and better retirement benefits.

That settlement alone would require a 2% tax increase in Fort Frances – which is out of the question.

In April, the Town had to lay-off two of their eight full time firefighters to make ends meet. 

The Town of Fort Frances’ CAO is a panellist for the concurrent session on arbitration, which is tomorrow morning.


AMO is calling for a legislative framework that makes ‘ability to pay’ a real and transparent part of an arbitrator’s decision-making process.  They are spending tax-payer dollars and that has to be respected.

AMO has just completed the first comprehensive survey of municipal insurance costs in Ontario. 

Since 2007, liability premiums have increased by more than 22% -- and they are among the fastest growing municipal costs. 

This year, Ontario municipalities will spend more than $155 million on insurance. That’s more than they spent on:

  • Ontario Works benefits and administration
  • conservation authorities, or
  • street lighting.

The rising costs reflect the fact that personal injury lawyers use a legal convention called “joint and several liability” to force municipalities to pay multi-million dollar settlements, if they are as little as 1 per cent liable in a claim. 

AMO is looking for rational and fair insurance reforms that other jurisdictions have already introduced.  Your insurers support our proposals – and we have benefitted from their input.

Those who are interested in their insurance costs may want to check out the concurrent session on risk management.

We know that “eco-fees” have been a hot button issue.

AMO believes that as a society, Ontario needs to have a serious talk about its trash.

We need to decide what we are going to do with it all?  And who will pay the bill?

We recognize that many people don’t want to pay a stewardship fee when they buy an iPod.  

But do these same people really want us to pass that disposal bill onto the tax bill of a senior, on fixed income, who lives across town and has no idea what an iPod is?

Burying waste management costs on communal property tax bills flies in the face of transparency, accountability, and personal responsibility.

My mother taught me that if you make a mess, you clean it up.  That’s personal responsibility – or Extended Producer Responsibility as it’s known in waste management circles.

It makes good sense to hold people and businesses accountable for the waste they produce.  Ideally our waste management policies should provide clear incentives for manufacturers to make safer products that use less packaging, and use packaging that is easier to recycle.

This is more than a philosophical debate about social responsibility.

Ontario is running out of landfill capacity at an alarming rate.

If we cannot convince our constituents to accept waste reduction and diversion, we will have to convince them to accept the construction of new landfills, the expansion of old landfills, and the construction of large scale incinerators.

Divert, dig or burn.  Those are the choices – and none of them are cheap. 

Waste diversion, combined with Extended Producer Responsibility, is the only option that reduces waste, improves environmental protection and treats taxpayers more fairly.

Later this afternoon, a concurrent session will host experts from The Netherlands that will explain how that country was able to translate Extended Producer Responsibility into a new and successful Green Industry.

Once again, these are just some of the key municipal priorities heading into the Provincial Election.

Again, the full checklist of 12 asks is available from AMO and further information about each issue is available on a dedicated “election” section of our website.

As I wind down my remarks today, I also wind down my third year as AMO President.  

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

Over the past year – and every year – I have received great support from AMO’s past presidents – and from Mike Galloway who is our Secretary-Treasurer and the CAO of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

On Wednesday I will pass the torch to Gary MacNamara, Mayor of Tecumseh – your next President.

We can all have complete confidence in Gary – and we appreciate his willingness to take on the job.  It’s a big one.  He knows it, and he is ready to take it on.

I need to thank all of AMO’s diverse board members for their service. There are 42 of us in all, from every corner of Ontario.

I am encouraged by the interest than so many of you have shown interest in serving on AMO’s Board.

Pat Vanini and her staff continue to serve us all with distinction.  The proof of that is all around us today.

Mayor Watson and all my Council colleagues in Ottawa have been tremendously supportive.  You cannot take this role on without that.

No one has been more supportive than my own family – my wife Ann Marie and my daughter Helen.

Every time I left for meeting in communities around Ontario, or beyond, she asked where I was going and who I would see.  She had a great geography lesson.

Helen has joined us on this trip and she has had a blast exploring the chocolate shop in London’s Richmond Row.

My family says they look forward to having me around more often.  I think they should be more careful about what they wish for.

To all of you, thank you for your continued support of AMO and thank you for the opportunity to be your President.