Remarks by:
Lynn Dollin, AMO President and
Deputy Mayor, Town of Innisfil

2016 Ontario West Municipal Conference
Best Western Lamplighter Inn
London, Ontario
Friday, December 2, 2016, 8:30 a.m.

Good morning.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here with you today in London.

Our theme at this year’s Conference is Change, Challenge, Opportunity.

AMO has been around for 117 years. We know a little something about change.

This is my fifth month as AMO President. In that short time I’ve learned that municipal governments are always looking for ways to turn our challenges into opportunities. To do better for our communities.

AMO is our voice on shared challenges. And through AMO, we come together and build positions that reflect our different circumstances.

We’ve moved the yardsticks over the years on some challenges -  uploading and a Municipal Act in 2005 that is less directory.

There are other examples we could celebrate but you are interested in the challenges we face today.  Some of which are long standing.

Emergency service costs continue (pause for emphasis) … continue to be a key concern.  

The goal is obvious: all Ontario communities must have safe, effective and affordable emergency services.

Municipalities do what they can to achieve that – but the Ontario government must do its part as well.

Some days I get tired of talking about interest arbitration and capacity to pay – but we will not give up!  

Now, the province is putting forward the Ontario Professional Firefighter Association’s proposal to create ‘Fire Medics’.

It would allow certified firefighters to provide emergency medical responses. It sounds like a simple change – but it has a number of challenges.

The proposal says a municipality would decide if it wants to go down this road. But we know, under the current interest arbitration system, an arbitrator could impose this on anyone, just like we saw with 24/7 shifts… and salary awards.

If implemented, municipal costs could increase significantly.  It also brings labour relations challenges for municipal governments, yet there is no proven benefits to the public.

The solution to growing improving outcomes is to invest more in EMS services and dispatch, not more in fire services. As I said, we’ll continue the good fight.

Another major challenge, for all Ontarians, is the rising cost of electricity.

Energy costs need to be reasonable for municipal governments, for residents and for businesses.

AMO’s Energy Task Force is meeting very soon to come up with ideas for the Premier on how to reduce electricity costs in a way that that is sustainable over time. Many LDCs have been working at efficiencies but many of the inputs to the rates are well beyond their control.  

I can tell you that we will be looking for collaboration from Hydro One and the Ministry of Energy.

Electricity is the hot topic right now but there are other energy issues to consider.

The closure of rural schools is something that continues to be a key challenge for many.

Our schools are more than just bricks and mortar. They create and foster a sense of community. We can’t create community hubs if we have to close the buildings that would house them. Re-purposing, multi-use, community based – this is all possible with willing partners.

Many small urban and rural communities are concerned that local hospitals could see their funding reduced. In addition to healthcare, hospitals support local economies and sustainable communities.

Municipalities need to be part of the solution for local community hospitals. That solution might involve reviewing the hospital funding formula to determine the impacts on small on rural communities.

Our sector is good at pinpointing the challenges. We also see the opportunity.  

Our strength is that we work together to find solutions to our challenges.

The community chorus needs to be clear.  And the solutions practical and doable.  

There is a lot of talent, creative and innovative thinking at the municipal level.

We are discussing with the province right now the first review of Ontario’s Police Services Act in 25 years.

We led the charge on the need to modernize policing.  We continue to lead the charge on changes that make sense for policing in the 21st century.

Last week, AMO presented its submission to the standing committee on Bill 7, Promoting Affordable Housing.

A strong housing sector in Ontario is vital and a National Housing Strategy is long overdue.

Investing in infrastructure is both a challenge and a key opportunity.

By now I hope you’ve heard about What’s Next Ontario. It’s AMO’s initiative to look at what it will take to make municipal governments fiscally sustainable into the future.

AMO has been travelling across the province to get your input.

Our work on What’s Next has revealed that the $60 billion infrastructure deficit remains a substantial, persistent challenge across all communities.

We have seen new commitments for infrastructure funding from both the federal and provincial governments. They are welcomed.  

The Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, or OCIF, is growing from $100 million to $300 million annually.

There’s $2.6 billion more for Moving Ontario Forward and the Connecting Links program.

The province put $275 new dollars toward the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund – monies that every municipal government could receive.

We recognize that all of this is significant progress – including a strong commitment from the federal government for infrastructure.

It has committed $11.9 billion for housing, green infrastructure and public transit projects in its Phase 1 program.

We’re advising the government on the design features for Canada’s Phase 2 programs.

Look for a letter and resolution from me that was sent yesterday.  

Your Board would like supporting municipal resolutions asking that the federal government recognize your asset management plans and related multi-year capital plans as the municipal incremental infrastructure requirement.  Incrementality has meant that we had to find new money to accelerate future projects.  Going forward, this is not sustainable for us. And frankly, it interferes with the purpose of asset management.

We know we don’t move our communities forward by sitting back and resting on our achievements.

AMO will always advocate for change, when and where change is needed – where it makes an improvement.

We have a lot of work to do in the year ahead.

Just last week, AMO’s Board approved its 2017 Strategic Objectives and our budget. I’m looking forward to sharing this information with you in the next few weeks.

We need your support – your support, your involvement and your financial contribution through membership.  

Building relationships and building knowledge is a key part of overcoming our challenges and achieving real outcomes.

Conferences like these strengthen our sector because they allow us to learn from each other and take that knowledge back to our own communities.

I hope that you enjoy the conference.