AMO President Lynn Dollin’s Remarks
2018 AMO AGM and Annual Conference
Monday, August 20 at 9:00 AM
Canada Hall 1, Shaw Convention Centre

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Hello and welcome.

It’s a pleasure to be here with you.

Every year we want to say, “This year’s conference is particularly important.”

Because every year it’s true.

This annual gathering is one of the most important events in Ontario politics.

And it’s a concrete expression of what AMO is.

AMO is a meeting place.

Communities… municipal leaders… and governments… come together through AMO, and at AMO.

Many of you have come great distances to listen… to learn… to participate… and to champion your special part of Ontario.

Ontario’s New Premier, Doug Ford… and much of Ontario’s Legislature… are here.

They need to be here – and they want to be.

AMO has had several meetings with the new government and there are many more on the horizon.

As you may know, AMO has a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Ontario government that requires the Province to engage with municipal government, through AMO.

One of their first steps was to update and renew that MOU Agreement. We will be signing it on this stage, tomorrow afternoon.

Almost all of Ontario’s 22 ministries have essential relationships with Ontario’s 444 municipal governments – and AMO.

Over the next three days, we’ll get a better sense of what our relationships will look like going forward.

A lot of that work happens in delegation meetings.

Normally, the Province gets about 500 meeting requests, and accommodates about 300.

This year they got more than 800.

And to their credit, they are accommodating more than 540.

That’s a record.

They can’t grant them all.

AMO assists by advocating for you, 365 days a year.

Your 40-member Board of Directors reflects our province.

Our caucus structure ensures that.

Last year there was broad consensus that – Ontario’s property tax base cannot meet Ontario’s infrastructure demand.

It doesn’t matter if you live in a big city, or a small community.

We believe that sharing sales tax revenue with municipal government makes more sense than forcing municipal governments to have much higher property taxes, and hope for grants.

A dedicated new revenue stream is more fair and practical – and the public sees the merit in this proposal.

Don’t take my word for it. Nik Nanos is here, and he brought his numbers.

The bottom line is, we stand by our conclusions of our Local Share work.

And we stand by the fact that municipal costs are being driven up by factors that are beyond our control.

Our current fiscal situation is not sustainable.

At some point, change is inevitable.

The question is, ‘what form will it take?’

We know that the Province wants to review regional government.

To be clear, they put a small “r” on “region” when they talk about this regional review.

We don’t know the scope of that yet.

Are they planning to look at the size and structure of municipal government?

Are they planning to look at the services we deliver?

Are they going to be looking at privatization of services?

We only know that they plan to consult with AMO and you when they try to scope this review.

During the campaign, I wrote a letter to all the leaders, to make sure AMO understood their proposals – and to make sure that the parties understood our goals.

I stand by what I wrote to Doug Ford.

AMO is not afraid of change.

But it needs to be well-informed.

At the very least it should reflect the diversity of our province. “One size fits all” is not the way forward.

We welcome many of the Premier’s broad priorities:
  • Creating jobs
  • Reducing costs
  • Stretching tax dollars further
  • Fairness for taxpayers.
We are also wary.

In our experience, ideas that look good from Queen’s Park’s perspective, often serve Queen’s Park more than they serve communities.

That’s not a statement on the last government.

It’s an age-old truth.

It was probably what motivated Ontario’s municipal leaders to create AMO 119 years ago.

Decision makers need to get out of Queen’s Park.

They need to travel.

They need to listen.

They need to listen to what they are being told in delegation meetings.

They need to look at AMO’s research and listen to our advice.

As our dear friend and late colleague Roger Anderson often said, “The advice we give to Queen’s Park is seldom wrong – and things go wrong when they ignore our advice.

During the election campaign, we heard that a Ford government would listen to front line service providers.

Well, in most cases, that’s us.

So let’s get at it:

New governments often move quickly.

That can be great.

It is also a concern.

The longer you have been around, the more likely you are to be concerned by speed.

That being said, AMO has spent a long time advocating for solutions to several obvious challenges.

We’ve done our homework.

Is this the government that will act on our recommendations?

They have listened to us with respect to cannabis.

They know that we’re on the front line.

During their announcement a week ago, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli – a former Mayor – acknowledged that, municipal government is where the “rubber hits the road.”

They see the need to consult with us on matters such as the location of retail cannabis stores.

They have started to.

They have pooled delegation requests related to cannabis … to have a round table discussion.

They are honouring the previous commitment of $40 million to address municipal impacts.

October 17 is fast approaching… we have questions... and online sales will have immediate impacts.

I mentioned our infrastructure needs.

We need the Ford government to move quickly to roll out federal funding for infrastructure.

2018 has been a lost year – because of the provincial and municipal election periods.

There will be a federal election in late 2019.

We have a small window of about nine months to get projects lined up, approved and funded.

If not, it will be another lost year.

We strongly urge the province to work with AMO to have the project intake ready for this December.

If the infrastructure demand isn’t enough to warrant fast action, consider this:

Gross Domestic Product goes up a dollar and forty-three cents ($1.43), for every dollar of infrastructure spending.

9.4 jobs are created with every million dollars spent.

And 44-cents of each dollar spent is recovered as additional tax revenue.

This is why infrastructure spending is used as economic stimulus.

We continue to urge the Province to protect double hatter firefighters – once and for all.

Hundreds of Ontario’s full-time firefighters serve as volunteers in their home communities.

A handful of leaders in the International Association of Fire Fighters are determined to stop them.

The IAFF used to threaten their careers. We stopped that in 2015.

But the union has simply switched gears. It is trying to fine good people up to $24,000 a year, for the crime of helping their communities.

It’s outrageous.

AMO supports double hatters – and we’re not going to stop.

They should be thanked, not charged and fined.

Premier Ford, this has gone on far too long.

Protect double hatter firefighters, once and for all.

If you want to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year, let’s agree to look at all the rules and processes that Queen’s Park imposes on us.

We need the Province to take a hard look at its contribution to the costs of delivering municipal services.

Look at every municipal reporting requirement and ask why it exists.

Keep reporting processes that actually do serve the people of Ontario.

Cut reporting that serves a hand-full of people at Queen’s Park.

There’s a lot of that.

For years we have been calling for fair and reasonable limits on municipal liability.

Lawyers are targeting municipalities – and municipal property taxpayers – as deep-pocket insurers of last resort.

They have argued – successfully – that municipalities can cover other people’s liability… because we can always go to taxpayers for more money.

In addition to being unreasonable, it inspires restrictions on hiking, road hockey, cycling and snowmobiling because we cannot afford the risk.

If we can bring back a buck a beer, we can bring back tobogganing.

The same ‘bottomless’ taxpayer argument has broken Ontario’s interest arbitration process.

Over time, arbitrators have awarded higher wage increases for police and firefighters than those in freely negotiated agreements.

Police and fire employees are valued. They’re paid more than most other employees and they have the best benefits and pensions.

We also accept that interest arbitration is needed, to ensure fair increases for employees who can’t strike.

But under the current system, police and fire wages have taken on a life of their own.

Arbitrators are giving police and fire bigger increases than our other employee unions negotiate – and arbitrators rarely consider a community’s capacity to pay for their awards.

Why? Because they argue we can always turn to taxpayers for more money.

When these valued employees receive further increases, they should be increases that their coworkers and other people in their community can relate to.

It should also go without saying that all Ontario communities must be able to provide safe, effective and affordable policing.

Queen’s Park has a responsibility to ensure that we can.

The previous government reviewed the Police Act, only to increase municipal costs even more.

Once again, many of those increases related to governance, rules and reporting.

We saw the same thing with training requirements for fire departments.

Changes need to be practical and affordable.

We caution the new government to proceed carefully on two large files: the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal and waste management.

The Tribunal is often referred to as “LPAT”.

And it has only be in place for about five months.

Under the old system, municipal governments were dragged into costly legal fights before the OMB – where the deepest pockets often win.

That’s no way to make planning decisions – and it’s no way to treat tax dollars.

We should wait and see how the new Tribunal performs, before making further changes.

Lastly, we need to go down the right path on waste diversion.

Putting out the trash should be easy, and fair to taxpayers.

The current system achieves the first part, but not the second.

Putting out the trash is easy, but the costs are buried.

Taxpayers subsidize wasteful behaviour.

If companies paid waste management costs, they would change for the better.

Their products and packaging would be smarter and easier to recycle.

Similarly, taxpayers who produce little waste, should not be subsidizing other people’s wasteful lifestyles.

Greater personal and producer responsibility would reduce the cost to government, allocate costs more fairly, and improve environmental protection.

These are just some of the many priorities that we need to address.

You all have your own to add, and you have come here looking for solutions.

AMO wants to serve you well – over the next three days and throughout the year.

That being said, we are only as strong as you make us.

We’re strongest when we stand together, work together, and support one another.

How can you do that?

Let’s recognize that we can agree on a lot.

Let’s agree that we can disagree respectfully.

We need Premier Ford and his colleagues to appreciate this as well.

I know that Minister Clark does.

As a former AMO President, he appreciates the importance of talking and listening to one another.

We won’t always agree.

But our relationship has to be strong enough, and important enough, that we can disagree respectfully.

I cannot stress how important the next three days are – for all of us.

Working together, we can build a bright future for 14 million people.

Let’s get started.

Enjoy the conference.