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

2018 OSUM Conference
Sheraton on the Falls Hotel
Niagara Falls, Ontario

8:00 – 8:15 a.m., Friday, May 4


(Check Against Delivery)
Thank you… and hello everyone.

It’s a pleasure to be here in Niagara Falls.

On behalf of the hundreds of Ontario communities that make up AMO, I want you to know we appreciate the invite.

It’s important for AMO to be here.

I’ve come to you straight from Kenora, where your peers in Northern Ontario came together for a similar meeting

It’s about 1,400 kilometres as the crow flies.

To give you some perspective - that’s about the same distance as going from here to Halifax.

And it is humbling to know that I could have been much farther north and travelled even farther south, and still been in Ontario.

Ontario’s that big. And there are only two ways to know the needs of its villages, towns and cities.

The best way is to visit them.  

That’s why AMO’s here – with you – again.

But how many people in Ontario have been everywhere in Ontario?

Not many.

I can think of four people who are trying to pull that off between now and June 7

It’s a noble effort. We wish them well.

Stomping Tom says he’s done it, but who could know for sure?

Practically speaking, there has to be another way for hundreds of communities to be known and understood.

They need to be heard.

Ontario’s 444 municipal governments need to speak with strong voices.

AMO’s Board is made up of 43 members, from across Ontario.

We provide a big tent – where leaders from across Ontario can come together…

work together…

find common ground…

And speak with one, powerful voice.

We owe our strength to you.

And we are only as strong as you make us.

Right now – on the eve of a provincial election – Ontario’s municipal community needs to be as strong as possible.

And we need to speak with one, clear voice.

Voters are being presented with very clear – and very different visions for Ontario.

But very little is being said about what the future would hold for municipal governments.

That’s a problem.

The result of this election could affect us profoundly.

Our two orders of government are closely entwined.

Simply put, this election isn’t only about them.
We own and maintain more infrastructure then they do.

We provide the services that most people use – most often.
Roads.

Bridges.

Water.

Wastewater.

Garbage collection.

Parks.

Recreation.

Emergency services.

In urban Ontario, transit features prominently on that list.

Ontario’s municipal governments provide some of the most basic – and most important – public services.

While the party leaders trade barbs – we’re building bridges, provided we can pay for them.
Usually we can’t.

We have to go to the Provincial or Federal governments, begging for dollars.

We don’t have their tax base – or their revenue.

We collect just 9 cents of every household tax dollar.

The province collects 44 cents, and the Federal government collects 47.

They can run deficits – and borrow on a large scale.
We have to make ends meet.

They micro manage us – telling us what to do – and how to do it.

AMO’s been around for more than a century and the pattern is the same: Queen’s Park tends to do what’s good for Queen’s Park.

What’s $50,000 here – or a million dollars there? Policy makers assume that municipal governments will find a way to cope.
But for more than half of Ontario’s 444 municipal governments, a one per cent tax increase raises less than $50,000.

The cumulative effect is astounding.

Province-wide, the cost of municipal government is going up by about a billion dollars a year.

Over the next decade, we face an annual funding gap of $4.9 billion dollars.

To put that in perspective, total property tax revenue would have to increase by about 8 per cent a year – every year – for a decade.

Property tax revenue would need to double.  

There is an urgent need to change the way municipal programs and services are delivered.

Voters should be asking candidates what they will do to make sure our services are efficient, strong and effective.

Will they work with us to make those changes?

For years we have been asking Queen’s Park to make changes that would save us hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Ontario should make changes to municipal insurance liability.

The current rules drive up our costs and take advantage of property tax payers.

Police officers and firefighters should receive wage increases that other people can relate to.

Every community should be able to provide emergency services that are safe, effective and affordable.

Emergency services already account for a shockingly high proportion of some municipal budgets. Unchecked growth is irresponsible, and unsustainable.

Ontario should protect double hatter firefighters – once and for all. They stand by our communities. What will it take the party leaders to stand up for them?

The new policing act could have gone much further to drive efficiencies and help us manage costs.

It did get changes to the Special Investigations Unit, public complaints, and officer discipline right.

Why are we talking about fire medics?
What interest does that serve?

If the parties want to improve paramedic response times, what are they going to do to make sure ambulances aren’t stuck at hospitals, serving as beds?
Who is willing to make companies and consumers who make waste, pay for waste management costs? It’s more than just fair. It’s an incentive to make packaging smaller, smarter, and less costly for taxpayers.

No one is talking about doing these things.
No one.

Don’t tell us all is well.

It’s not.

Don’t tell us municipal government has the power to make billions in cost reductions.

We don’t.

Don’t tell us that it makes sense to fund modern municipal governments the same way that we funded fire brigades in 1867.

Property taxes can’t do it all anymore.

And they’re not doing it all anymore.

What’s the path forward?

What do we need?

First, let’s all agree that Ontario’s provincial government has a responsibility to work cooperatively with municipal governments – to make sure we can make ends meet, deliver quality services, and stretch tax dollars further.

Second, give us a greater say in how we design and deliver municipal programs and services.

What works in Sioux Lookout may not work in Smiths Falls – and the system shouldn’t be designed by someone who has never been to either.

Finally, show us that you’re prepared to address the remaining fiscal gap with new revenue streams.

In the absence of efforts to reduce our costs, the province needs to consider new revenue streams. For example, AMO believes that sales tax revenue should be dedicated to funding municipal infrastructure. We know that is not an easy solution.
The alternative is almost certainly much higher property taxes and that’s an even worse solution.

So…

Work with municipal government in partnership.
Help us stretch tax dollars by cutting the provincial red tape.

Local governments file hundreds of reports to the province –nearly 300 every year based on one municipal experience. Only a handful are read or acted on.

Let’s just report what matters.

And devote more of those dollars to serving our community.

Give us a greater Local Say, so that we can improve municipal services and provide better value to tax payers.

And increase the Local Share of tax dollars, to ensure basic public services are funded appropriately.

These basic services are key to Ontario’s quality of life. They provide jobs, health, safety and economic growth.

Some of these costs relate to infrastructure. Municipalities own almost two-thirds of all public infrastructure. Decades of provincial decisions, inaction, and downloading has made it hard for us to catch up or keep up.  

A lot of the gap relates to rules and processes that the Province creates. Changes are needed to make our services better, more efficient and more cost effective.

Finally, the Province could also give municipal government a greater local share of tax revenue.  

Expecting municipal leaders to come to Queens Park, cap in hand, isn’t a sustainable model.

All communities have roads and bridges to fix, not to mention transit or water systems. The list goes on.

We think sale tax revenue should help pay for municipal infrastructure.

And if not sales tax, then any other long term solution that will generate nearly $2.5 billion annually for municipal infrastructure is needed, done in a way that serves both big and small communities fairly.

We can’t expect property taxpayers to do it all. The bottom line is the Local Share of tax dollars should match our responsibilities.

Our provincial election campaign is simple. Help us make services more affordable.
Give us a greater local say in how services are delivered, and a greater local share of tax revenue.

AMO has been actively working to get these needs in front of provincial leaders. We’ve also been working hard to put municipal priorities into your hands, so you have the tools to share them with your local candidates. We want you to ask every one of them how they will support stronger municipal government.

We also want you to share with your own community members.

We think it’s really important that voters understand that their decision at the ballot box in June will shape their local, hometown services.

You play an important role in helping them get just what is at stake in your own communities.

We’ve posted an entire tool kit online with a summary of our messages and materials you can print off and leave behind with candidates or community groups. There’s also content you can share on social media. Visit AMO’s website and click on the Provincial Election Tool Kit.

You’ve probably seen the postcards here at the conference with both AMO and OSUM priorities. You’ll be able to download and share that card as well.

I want to stress that AMO is not partisan in our work. We are committed to working with whatever provincial government is chosen by the people of Ontario.

After all, municipal Councils and AMO are made up of leaders of all political stripes. By necessity, we set aside our differences and work together for the sake of our communities.

In the post-election world, we’ll be vigilant and continue pursuing the public interest on behalf of our communities.  
I’ll be able to speak to this more at a future date, including at the AMO August Conference. (This is my plug to remind you to register for it).  

There is much more that unites us, than divides us.

We need to work together to get the provincial parties, and voters, to understand just how important having strong municipal governments is to making life better in Ontario.

In closing, I just want to say that AMO appreciates your support.

Gatherings like this improve our understanding. They allow us to share concerns and ideas.

They allow us to pursue change.

And they are an opportunity to make sure that Ontario is moving in directions that support a bright future for our communities.