Local councillors wary of provincial reviews - April 25, 2019
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron County and its lower-tier municipalities are currently in “wait and see” mode in regards to 24 reviews that are ongoing at the provincial level.
Huron East Mayor Bernie MacLellan, a member of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Health Task Force, spoke to the reviews first at the April 16 meeting of Huron East Council and then the next day at Huron County Council.
MacLellan had attended a task force meeting earlier in the week that was derailed by several announcements by the provincial government concerning amalgamation of local health agencies and emergency service stations throughout the province.
He said the day’s agenda was thrown into disarray with the announcement, adding that much of what was to be discussed had been fundamentally changed by the provincial government.
This led to a discussion about the potential for a municipal governance review and its current status. It was then that members were informed that while a municipal governance review, which may lead to further amalgamation, is still in the works, it was just one of 24 ongoing reviews that could affect the way municipalities and counties operate.
In a document provided to the members by AMO, the 24 reviews are listed, all of which are either underway or due to start soon.
The reviews are:
• Aggregates reform
• Ambulance/paramedic services dispatch streamlining and integration
• Animal welfare
• Conservation authorities modernization
• Digital first strategy
• Environmental assessment modernization
• Housing: Housing supply action plan, community housing renewal strategy, national housing strategy trilateral co-ordination forum and supportive housing
• Joint and several liability
• Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) redesign
• Ontario Energy Board (OEB) modernization
• Ontario immigrant nominee program
• Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF)
• Planning Act streamlining
• Police Services Act
• Provincial Gas Tax program
• Property Assessment (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) review
• Public health restructuring
• Reducing litter and waste
• Reducing the municipal reporting burden
• Regional review
• Resource revenue sharing for northern communities
• Social assistance reform
• Species at risk
• Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) operational review.
Huron County Chief Administrative Officer Meighan Wark said that the county has been told from its provincial government contacts that lower-tier governments will have to take a “wait and see” approach to potential changes.
Huron County Warden Jim Ginn said that at the provincial level, consultation and reviews such as these happen all the time and that he wasn’t overly concerned with them.
In an interview with The Citizen, Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Education Lisa Thompson agreed with Ginn’s sentiment saying that the consultations are nothing to be worried about and they are aimed at making life better in her riding.
She said that the reality of Ontario’s fiscal situation needs to sink in and the province needs to be more efficient from the top down.
“There are a number of reviews happening at this time,” she said. “We need to be very serious when we talk about, ‘how can we be doing business better?’”
While Huron-Bruce is not currently involved in the regional governance review currently aimed at larger city centres and regions, Thompson said that Huron and Perth Counties showed great initiative in working to amalgamate their health units in search of efficiencies.
She says that on any issue being reviewed at the provincial level, the government is engaging its lower-tier counties and municipalities to ensure their needs are being met.
“I am adamant that I represent Huron-Bruce and people can guarantee that their voice is being heard at the cabinet table and the treasury table as well when we start talking about impacts, because I’m always putting a rural lens on everything that comes across my desk.”
Thompson said that her government feels it’s very important to tackle these issues with the help of local politicians to ensure everyone is being served by any changes.
“[Huron County Warden] Jim Ginn was spot on when he said it’s important to lay down a rural lens on every policy that comes through and that’s what we’re doing and that’s why it’s important to be out there talking,” Thompson said.
When asked what local politicians should do as the provincial government works its way through these reviews, she insisted that politicians should remain part of the process.
“Stay engaged,” she said. “We appreciate the local leadership that we have at the provincial level and we want to work well with them, so let’s stay engaged.”