01/14/2015

Tobogganing is not allowed on Orangeville’s Murray’s Mountain and media have started to take note.

Recent coverage in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, National Post and other outlets claim that the Town has banned a “quintessentially Canadian activity.” The ban is a result of provincial inaction and the “liability chill” that is taking over our communities.

Why can’t you toboggan down Murray’s Mountain? Most media coverage has pointed to the right culprit – liability. For example, in the case of joint and several liability, if other parties are unable to pay, damages can be recovered from any defendant even if they are deemed just one per cent responsible. As a result, municipalities can be forced to pay huge damage awards and are often targeted as “deep pocket” insurers. It’s unfair and it’s wrong.

There are many examples from across Ontario where municipalities have been forced to scale back on recreational and other services because of “liability chill.” In addition, joint and several liability has led to a steady increase in municipal insurance costs. In 2011, insurance costs exceeded annual province-wide municipal spending in maintaining bridges and culverts, administering and providing Ontario Works employment assistance benefits and funding conservation authorities.

AMO has long advocated for reforms that would reduce the impact of joint and several liability on municipalities. Ontario’s taxpayers cannot afford to be the insurer of last resort. If this situation is allowed to continue, municipal governments will have no choice but to continue scaling back on public services to avoid liability exposure.

To the Honourable. Madeline Meilleur, the Attorney General for Ontario, and her Cabinet colleagues, we say, give Ontarians back their toboggans. The time is now for the provincial government to establish reasonable liability limits for municipal governments. Changes to liability legislation won’t cost the Province anything, but would likely lead to lower insurance premiums and allow more people to enjoy recreational activities like tobogganing in Ontario communities.