I am pleased to be attending the 2015 AMO conference in Niagara Falls. The conference features thousands of delegates from municipalities across Ontario and is a great opportunity to meet counterparts in other cities, share best practices, and meet with vendors and new product developers that allow our municipalities to run more efficiently and effectively. It is also an opportunity for municipalities to speak to Ontario cabinet ministers, party leaders, and MPPs about issues affecting our communities.
As one of the mayors of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus (LUMCO), I began my AMO conference early with a caucus meeting on Sunday. Today LUMCO joined forces with the Mayors and Regional Chairs of Ontario (MARCO) for a joint meeting to discuss our priorities and develop common principles and stands on issues that we will lobby the provincial government about. LUMCO meets at least twice per year and has been visited by the Premier twice and a number of senior Ontario cabinet ministers. Today we were joined by the Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ted McMeekin. Both spoke about their government’s commitment to municipalities and the need to forge a stronger partnership.
In particular, Minister McMeekin discussed the ongoing review of the Municipal Act, the Development Charges Act, and the Municipal Elections Act. These three pieces of legislation form the foundation of how municipalities govern and finance their operations and it is our hope that through this review, we will make changes that will create more fair municipal elections, as well as carve out a greater role for municipalities in decision making and financing their operations. He also spoke to his personal and his government’s commitment to creating more affordable housing.
Minister Flynn spoke about an issue that affects all municipalities: arbitration awards for Fire and Police. Flynn indicated that there will be new regulations to deal with this issue in the next few months. While all municipalities support their fire and police departments, the increases awarded by arbitrators during contract negotiations are often higher than a municipality can afford to pay. While we want to ensure fair wages for the work that is done by these brave men and women, we must also ensure that the taxpayer has the ability to pay and is not unfairly burdened.
LUMCO has four main priorities: transit and gridlock; infrastructure; economic development and job creation; and affordable housing. I am proud to be the lead on the Transit and Gridlock file and in the last 8 months, I am proud to say we have seen some significant federal and provincial investments in transit across Ontario – from Smart Track to the Hurontario-Main LRT, to announcements about increased all-day, two-way GO Train service, there has been an unprecedented investment in transit in the last year. I am also pleased to be part of a group of mayors from Toronto, Cambridge and Milton that is advocating for the development of the “Missing Link” to increase GO Train service on the Milton line by rerouting freight around Mississauga and Toronto. You can find out more about our efforts, here [Hyperlink to report]
Throughout the Sunday afternoon meeting, we also heard presentations and updates about interest arbitration, and provincial legislation before the Ontario Legislature and recently passed. Following each, the LUMCO/MARCO Mayors and Chairs were unanimous in their support for resolutions regarding:
- The provincial growth plan
- A greater partnership between the federal, provincial and municipal governments on affordable housing
- Changes to interest arbitration rules
Working together, the LUMCO mayors have developed a positive working relationship with the Ontario government and have collectively advanced our priorities in a way that we would not be able to individually.
Throughout the course of the next two days, I will be meeting with cabinet ministers, MPPs, and the leaders of the opposition parties to talk about LUMCO priorities, and more specifically, the priorities of Mississauga. AMO is an excellent opportunity to deliver our message and talk to those people in a position to make positive change.