2016 Annual AMO Conference
Caesars Windsor, Plenary Hall, Colosseum Theatre
Windsor, Ontario
Wednesday, August 15, 2016, 9:05 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.



Thank you so much Gary.

Gary McNamara has been a great AMO President– twice.

He liked it so much the first time that he came back for another term.  

I know that Gary will be a great support for me personally – as Past President – and he will continue to be a great asset to the Association.

I look forward to his advice and guidance.

Et j’espère que je peux compter sur toi pour m’aider avec mon Francais.

Gary knew how important it is to have someone who is truly committed to the time and energy that it takes to be President – and he delivered.

His passion for it shines through.

So again, I want to thank Gary – and his wife Heather – on behalf of all of us.

[Applause]

What a great week this has been.

I arrived on Friday, and our Board meetings began and our work carried on throughout the weekend.

It was great to see you all arrive on Sunday – and the last three days have been a whirlwind.

We always want to make sure that the program is useful and practical for you.

I hope that it has captured your imagination.

That’s what happened to me.

I came to my first AMO Conference for one reason: Rick Mercer.

He was a speaker and I’m a big fan.

I left a conference with greater curiosity about what AMO was… about how it worked.

The more I learned about it, the more I thought about volunteering, and participating in it more directly.

Eventually, with the support of my Council, I decided to run for a position on the Board.

A big thank you to Innisfil Council and staff for not only your support but also your encouragement.

I remember heading off to my first AMO meeting, and thinking that it would be a breeze.

I was a 16-year veteran Councillor, with 6 terms under my belt.

I knew the issues.

I knew what worked and I knew what didn’t.

I was ready to share my expertise – and shake some common sense into the place.

It was a rude awakening.

The issues look very different when you step out of your own community and look at the province as a whole.

You quickly learn that the perfect and sensible solution for your community could be absolutely absurd, if not catastrophic, for another community in another part of the province.

You learn quickly that you need to listen.

Solving a problem for one community, or for one type of community, is relatively easy.

Getting the policy right for all of Ontario requires a lot more effort and thought.

That is the position that the Province is in.

They make decisions that affect all 444 of us.

We expect them to go the full distance – and listen to us all before they make important decisions.

We also let them know it when they don’t do that.

However, we fall into the same trap, when we try to solve problems by shrinking our circle to more manageable sizes.

Yes, we have caucuses – to make sure everyone is heard.

But we work together, through AMO.

It’s the only forum that unites us all.

If we don’t listen to one another – and we don’t care about what our actions do to our neighbours – the Province has no reason to care either.

Their job is easier when we work in isolation or splinter.

When we give them mixed messages – or competing options – it gives them free reign to do what is best for them, and not what is best for us.    

So, we are not going to solve problems by creating smaller circles.

We need to make this one tent work.

We continue to work as individuals, fighting for our communities, but we come together here.

(Pause)

Now, we have been doing this for more than a century, so it’s not like we are starting from scratch.

Different regions and caucuses are well represented.

I want to congratulate and welcome the new and returning board members.

I look forward to working with you.

There is a lot of hard earned experience in the room.

There is also a great benefit to participating within AMO – because there’s a lot to be learned from your colleagues.

Peter Hume, a former AMO President and a high-profile figure in Ottawa, used to say that ‘the best part was the opportunity to learn from everyone else around him.’

He always acted like the kid who felt lucky to be part of it.

The rest of us knew he belonged there. We all wanted what he brought to the table.

I share Peter’s sense of good fortune.

I feel lucky to be in the room.

I feel lucky to serve as your President.

I look forward to seeing more of Ontario, and I look forward to meeting more of you.

My first instincts are to listen – starting with AMO’s consultations on the What’s Next Ontario initiative.

We did that in the first phase of the project and will continue to do so as we move into the next.

My local media has already asked me what my top priorities will be as AMO President.

Well, that’s up to you – and it’s up to your representatives on AMO’s Board.

We set our course together.

It will be my job to give our direction a voice.

As you can see from all the topics that we have covered over the past few days, we work on a very diverse range of issues, concerns and goals.

It’s my job to make sure that your needs and concerns land on the right desk at Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill.

I don’t tell you what’s important.

You tell us – and be prepared to convince all of us.

We’re a big tent – and AMO’s positions reflect consensus.

As a certain past president is fond of saying, “If you want to go fast… go alone.  If you want to go far… go together.”

AMO advocates on matters of common cause, where consensus can be found.

It can take time to get there, but the bar is set where the bar should be set.

With that in mind, it’s worth looking at the program again.

Look at all the topics that we covered here.

Sometimes these conferences can be like drinking from a firehose – there’s just too much to take in.

What you see here is the tip of the iceberg on each of these topics.

The research, the hours, and the energy that got each one of those topics this far, hides beneath the surface.

We’ve done our homework – thanks in large part to the dedication and talents of staff.

AMO’s done our homework on interest arbitration. The system is broken and it needs to be fixed.

We did our homework on policing. That’s why our recommendations are so hard to ignore.

We have done our homework on joint and several liability.

That’s why people are increasingly aware that unscrupulous lawyers are using this loophole to line their pockets with property taxes.

We’ve all seen the billboards and TV adds.

Ontario should place reasonable limits on municipal liability. We made that call again this week, and you saw the Province’s reaction.

We will keep making the call – because our expectations are understandable, and their reaction is unacceptable.

We have done our homework on our infrastructure needs – and funding models.

That’s why the Federal Government wants to work with us.    

We did our homework on housing. That’s why a national housing strategy is on the way.

We use everything at our disposal to move Ontario’s communities forward – in the short term and in the long term.

As you leave here and head home, would you please reflect about us on your travels.

I want you to take a look at the communities you pass along the way.

Keep in touch with colleagues that you have met over the past few days.

We all need to get to know our neighbours, and their needs, if we hope to satisfy our own.

Working on your own will get you a delegation meeting. And you can accomplish a lot with a delegation meeting.

I would offer however, that it will take a lot more than that to achieve fiscal sustainability for your municipality – and for all municipal governments.
To move a mountain like that, we will all have to look at the big picture.

We will all have listen to one another and think carefully.

We will all have to work together – within one, all-inclusive tent.

There is room for you. My ask is that simply stay connected with AMO. Read the weekly Watch File… visit the website… get an understanding of AMO’s positions on the topics that affect us all… join a task force.  

The more we contribute, the more we can turn ourselves into a powerful force that’s hard to ignore.

So again, I hope the past three days have caught your attention and inspired greater interest in our work.

I look forward to hearing from you, meeting you and working with you. Here’s how you can contact me.

(Slide --- AMOPresident@amo.on.ca)

Most of all, I’m looking forward to serving you, as best as I can, as AMO President.