Gaining a Seat at the Table: AMO’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Province of Ontario
On December 19, 2001, AMO signed the groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Ontario – a formal recognition of the principle of consultation between the Province and Ontario’s municipal governments. Under the MOU, the Government of Ontario committed to consult with municipalities whenever statutory or regulatory changes with an impact on municipal budgets are proposed.
The MOU paved the way for a dramatic shift in the relationship between municipalities and the Province of Ontario. For too long, municipalities had been lumped into the “MUSH sector” – municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals. Municipalities stand apart from this group, however, by virtue of their authority, taxation powers, and the size and scope of their responsibilities. The MOU ensures that Ontario’s municipalities are respected as partners by the provincial government – and it is the only agreement of its kind in Canada.
AMO played an instrumental role in redefining the relationship between the Province of Ontario and its municipalities through the MOU. AMO’s strong and productive relationships with the Government of Ontario, former Premier Mike Harris, and former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Chris Hodgson were the foundation that enabled the MOU to build on the already significant gains made through Ontario’s Municipal Act of 2001. Since the MOU took effect in 2002, AMO meets regularly with the Province to advance municipal interests in areas such as waste diversion and energy conservation, social service programs and affordable housing strategies, infrastructure investment, and the provincial-municipal fiscal relationship.
Through continued cooperation between AMO and the provincial government, the MOU has evolved from a principled declaration of consultation, collaboration and respect to a legally-binding agreement that recognizes Ontario’s municipalities as a mature, accountable order of government.
Outcome and Long-term Benefits
When the original MOU was renewed in 2004, it was strengthened by a new Protocol that committed the Province to also consult with AMO on specific federal-provincial matters that have a direct municipal impact. In 2005, the MOU was enshrined in law as a part of the Municipal Act. In 2007, the process became more visible and accountable with an additional commitment by AMO and the Province to release a public report on the results of the MOU process annually.
MOU meetings occur regularly and they are effective. Over the past decade, AMO has weighed in on countless provincial and federal policies that affect municipal governments, to fight for strong and effective municipal government and provincial policies that are practical, flexible and appropriately funded.