04/30/2015

Remarks by: Gary McNamara, AMO President and Mayor, Town of Tecumseh Thursday, April 30, 2015, 9:15 a.m. Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre, Trade Show Ice Pad Belleville, Ontario
Remarks by:
Gary McNamara, AMO President and
Mayor, Town of Tecumseh


Thursday, April 30, 2015, 9:15 a.m.
Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre, Trade Show Ice Pad
Belleville, Ontario

2015 OSUM Conference

(Check Against Delivery)




 

Thank you for the warm welcome.

It’s a pleasure to be with you here today.

One of the privileges of serving as AMO’s president is the opportunity to travel across our beautiful province.

A week ago, I was in Thunder Bay.  Soon, I’ll be heading to Sudbury to hear from your colleagues in the northeast. I will also be doing other stops.

AMO’s staff wants to keep me on the road ... and talking to members.

Frankly, I like this part of the job immensely, but don’t tell staff that.

In fact, I made a trip to eastern Ontario several years ago with Pat Vanini, our Executive Director.  As we were inspecting one of Ontario’s new service centres, we spotted a small 2-seater helicopter being towed by a truck. I thought it was a great way to get around, but I was told in no uncertain terms that it just wasn’t going to happen!

Visiting all corners of the province brings home the diversity of our landscape and of our communities.  But we also know that there is much that ties our communities together.

This conference is important to us, because it’s a chance to hear from you directly.

You are also fortunate to have a strong voice on AMO’s board.  I want to take a moment to acknowledge the hard work of your Small Urban Caucus.
−    Chair Lynn Dollin of Innisfil,
−    Larry McCabe of Goderich,
−    Gail Ardiel of the Towns of the Blue Mountains,
−    Jim Collard of Niagara on the Lake,
−    Jamie McGarvey of Parry Sound, and,
−    Graydon Smith of Bracebridge.

They themselves come from across the province, but they all work together to represent your interests.

That is what AMO is all about.

AMO is not a thing … or a head office for Ontario’s municipalities.

AMO is a meeting place for community leaders and municipal staff.

All of our communities are diverse.  Every day, we each contend with local issues and circumstances.  But at AMO, we come together to deal with the collective challenges that we all face.

Decisions are made by AMO’s 43 member Board of Directors – and each is expected to represent you, to the best of their ability.  Our various caucuses speak on behalf of different types of municipalities.

AMO has demonstrated time and again that mutual support and cooperation among us achieves far more than we could ever achieve as individual municipalities.

When small municipalities have an issue with the Ontario Government, they need to have the weight of our province’s largest municipalities behind them.  And when our largest municipalities have an issue with the Ontario Government, they need to know that everyone else has their back.

It boils down to a shared appreciation that all Ontario communities must be strong and competitive.

To achieve our vision, we must stand together and work together.

There is an African proverb that says – if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.  

I think ‘far’ is the better objective – one that will also support good public policy.  

AMO works to have as productive a relationship as possible with the Ontario Government.  Sometimes we make progress and sometimes it is tough.  But we always keep on trying.

One week ago today, the Province released its budget.  As did the federal government.

In fact, most of what was in them was floated out in the media before their formal release.

Transit systems are the big winner, which will be good for some of Ontario’s largest communities.

 
Provincially, AMO is keenly interested in learning more about the $15 billion infrastructure investment for the non-GTHA portion of the Province.  The budget document says the Province will consult on new programs and a framework for evaluating infrastructure needs.  The Premier in a call to me the day after assured me that this would happen.  So, we really look forward to having that discussion soon.

AMO has pressed for permanent and predictable funding to address infrastructure needs.  One-off grants cannot address the growing gap across all of our communities.

 
The $5 million bump to OMPF for northern municipalities in 2016 is good – it recognizes some of its inherent challenges.  But it does not recognized that there are other parts of Ontario with other inherent challenges.  The more property taxes that are needed to fix operating holes generally result in less for capital repairs and replacement. How the OMPF will be profiled for 2016 will be the subject of yet another consultation.

AMO wants to work closely with the Ontario Government to make sure that all of Ontario has a strong and prosperous future.

A big part will be the need to ensure that all municipal governments can afford to meet their responsibilities.                           
Some of you have served in municipal leadership for many years.  But after the last municipal election, we know there are also many new faces.

We need both.  Those of us who have been around for a while have experience.  The new arrivals keep us on our toes, and force us to question old assumptions.

If you have just made it through your first municipal budget process, congratulations.  I am sure it was an eye-opening experience.

My guess is you had to make some tough decisions.  So you’ll probably understand why among its many priorities, AMO is focusing on the long-term issue of fiscal sustainability.

We need to figure out how to build stronger communities that can provide a good quality of life to residents, affordably, and over the long haul.

Municipal governments seem left to lurch from download, to upload, to unfunded mandates – and from grant programs that come and go.

The only constant is change.

AMO is starting a municipal discussion about our future – what do we need to build a more stable, predictable future?  Are there other revenue sources that make  sense for the work that we’re charged to do?  What happens to property taxes if the fiscal tools are unchanged?  We want your input and insights, so that we can build a vision for the future that reflects the needs of all of our communities and that we can take to the Province.

We’ve done this before.  For example, we worked hard together to arrive at a Municipal Act that respects us as a mature order of government, trusted to work with our citizens.  In 2005, we finally saw an Act that gives us broad authority with few constraints, and it is working well.  

In addition, ten years ago, AMO members finally convinced the Province that property tax dollars should not, and could not, fund Provincial programs such as drug benefits, disability benefits and other social programs.

AMO, with broad-based membership support, created a strategy to engage the Province on uploading the provincial social service costs that were dropped on our doorstep in the late ’90s.

After a well-researched outreach and advocacy campaign – that united municipal voices from across Ontario – we brought the Province to the table.  Two years of hard work – together – created the 2008 upload agreement.

Because of it, municipal governments now hold onto more than $1.5 billion of our tax dollars each year.  Just think what your tax bills would look like today, if this $1.5 billion was still going to Queen’s Park.  How much further behind would we be?  What state would our infrastructure be in, if the $1.5 billion did not find its way into some of our roads and bridges, sewer and water systems?

Notwithstanding this solid work, municipal governments still have a significant infrastructure deficit, along with other service pressures, as communities grow and age.

So, what is next?  Even with the uploading, municipal governments still need greater financial stability.

We need to adapt to a world that changes faster than we might like.

So we are asking a pretty big question – What’s Next Ontario?

What’s next in terms of creating stronger communities? How do we secure our financial future?

Tomorrow, AMO’s Policy Director, Monika Turner, is going to share with you the work we’ve done so far on future needs, challenges and possible opportunities.

Then it’s going to be all about you, starting to talk about your ideas and your vision.  

I believe that the small urban sector can play a special role in this work.  You manage urban challenges without the scale and resources of larger cities.  You also share some of the resource challenges of your smaller neighbours.

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.  You have always been creative in finding solutions.  Whether it is forging shared service agreements or finding new ways to do things.

But in addition to looking at the big picture, AMO is, in the here and now, focused on immediate, practical policy matters and challenges.

A key priority is looking at the model of policing.  There are many Acts that impact policing – and none have been reviewed since at least the turn of the century.

We need to focus on how to deliver policing in a way that meets modern needs and provides affordable quality service to our communities.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s panel discussion, where I’ll be joined by AMO Senior Policy Advisor Matt Wilson and Mayor Al Spacek of Kapuskasing.  

AMO – both staff and our members -- have put a tremendous amount of effort behind this issue.

The AMO Police Modernization Task Force report came out this Monday and we’re looking forward to sharing their ideas with all of you, and the Province as well.  I want to thank Jim Collard from OSUM for his contribution.

Of course, it is well known that labour costs are the biggest line item on police budgets.

We believe that any further increases for police, as well as other emergency service personnel, should be comparable to the increases that our other municipal employees get.  The skill, knowledge and risk competencies are already built in to the salary grid.  

We await two things.  

First – for those with OPP policing, the results of the Province and OPPA contract negotiations.  

Second – how the Province will proceed with discussions on the Ontario interest arbitration system that affects fire and police contracts.  

 
Ontario’s interest arbitration system produces results that are in a class by themselves and employers have lost confidence in it.  Municipal governments are criticized because some negotiate collective agreements that replicate interest awards or negotiated settlements. Frankly – why would a municipal government spend even more money to go to arbitration to get a predictable, and unaffordable, settlement from interest arbitration?   

There are ways we can make the interest arbitration process more efficient, but the substantive issue is how to determine ‘affordability’ for different municipalities.  What is affordable in one community may be cost prohibitive elsewhere.  This is the core of AMO’s work on this matter.

Frankly, any possible change to the interest arbitration regime is not going to happen without a new process that involves all the parties, including the Ministry.  That’s the clear message to the Province and we are readying ourselves for future discussions.

Policing is just one of the many files AMO is working away at.  Right now, in fact, there are 30 different provincial priorities that directly relate to municipal government – some in response to our interests.

And there is other legislation and initiatives that we must keep our eye on, because there could be significant impacts if government doesn’t take our advice.

I encourage you to sign up for our emails if you haven’t already, and to visit our website to learn more about our work.  Our annual conference will be in Niagara Falls this year, in August.  I urge you to attend.  It is a great opportunity to learn about emerging issues and solutions, network and share ideas with colleagues across the province, and to bend the ear of Ministers and provincial representatives.

Let me wrap up.

AMO’s board members and those who serve on our various task forces – all represent the full spectrum of Ontario’s communities.  

When our diverse voices find a common cause, we are very hard to ignore.

We look forward to working with you in the year ahead. 2015 will be busy and will we endeavour to serve our members well.

Thank you.