Consideration of Bill 12, An Act to provide choice and flexibility to Northern Residents in the establishment of service delivery mechanisms that recognize the unique circumstances of Northern Ontario and to allow increased efficiency and accountability in Area-wide Service Delivery / Projet de loi 12, Loi visant à offrir aux résidents du Nord plus de choix et de souplesse dans la mise en place de mécanismes de prestation des services qui tiennent compte de la situation unique du Nord de l'Ontario et à permettre l'accroissement de l'efficience et de la responsabilité en ce qui concerne la prestation des services à l'échelle régionale.
The Vice-Chair (Mrs Julia Munro): Good morning and welcome to the standing committee on general government. We're here in Thunder Bay to look at Bill 12. I would ask first of all for the subcommittee reports.
"(1) That the committee will travel to Kenora, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie and Kapuskasing. If travel arrangements to Kapuskasing prove to be difficult, the Chair may substitute Timmins for Kapuskasing. The specific route and travel arrangements will be decided by the Chair.
"(2) That an advertisement will be placed, if possible, for one day in the largest weekly English and French papers in each city to which the committee will travel. Furthermore, an ad will be placed in the Timmins Daily Press, le Nord de Kapuskasing, and l'Express de Kapuskasing. The advertisement will also be placed on the Ontario legislative channel.
"(3) That July 31, 1998, at 12 noon will be the cut-off time for people to contact the committee clerk to request an opportunity to appear before the committee. Written submissions must be received by August 14, 1998.
"(4) That the Minister of Northern Development and Mines be offered 60 minutes in which to make a presentation. Following the presentation, all three parties will be offered five minutes each to ask questions and make statements.
"(7) That the legislative research officer will prepare a summary for the committee and have it distributed by August 18, 1998. The summary will include a package of background information containing press reports concerning this issue from each of the cities the committee will visit.
"(9) That clause-by-clause will commence on October 1, 1998, or on the first regularly scheduled committee meeting day after this date. Each party will have 10 minutes for statements before the commencement of the clause-by-clause process.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be here. I'm sitting in this morning for Joe Spina, parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, who regrettably has suffered a death in his family and was unable to be here this morning. Our thoughts and our prayers are with him and his family.
I'm honoured today to officially open the public committee hearings on Bill 12, the Northern Services Improvement Act. These hearings will take us to the beautiful communities of Thunder Bay, Kenora, Sault Ste Marie and Timmins, where we will listen to the northerners express their views on this historic legislation.
These hearings confirm our continuing commitment to northerners. Minister Hodgson and Parliamentary Assistant Joe Spina have made it their personal goals to ensure that northern Ontario's special circumstances and needs are being heard, considered and acted upon at Queen's Park. Over the past three years they have entrenched the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines' role as government policy voice for the north. The ministry has led the local services restructuring initiative in the north. It has provided both staff and funding resources to ensure a thorough and complete dialogue on this important issue.
Mr Spina wanted me to tell you that he has had the pleasure of personally meeting with many stakeholders throughout northern Ontario over the past year. He's had the opportunity to consult with them, both formally and informally, on the matter of area services boards.
We believe Bill 12 reflects that dialogue. This legislation was created and developed after extensive consultation with northern stakeholders: the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, Team North and unincorporated communities. We worked together to draft flexible legislation that gives northern communities new opportunities to work together on delivering better services at a lower cost to the taxpayers.
I'd like to take a moment or two to highlight some parts of this important bill. First, the bill proposes the formation of area services boards, the mechanism that could deliver and provide funding for the services that become a local responsibility under the local service restructuring reforms. It will help communities achieve greater efficiencies, reduce costs and deliver services to clients more effectively.
The draft legislation is enabling. Northern communities are not obligated to create area services boards; they will be created in only those areas that want them. If northern communities choose to establish an area services board, they would make a proposal to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines that describes the parameters of the services board they envision. The proposal would include proof of community support, proposed boundaries and the services that the ASB wants to deliver.
An area services board would be responsible for six core services, namely, Ontario Works, child care, public health, social housing, homes for the aged and land ambulance services. Furthermore, an area services board could choose to deliver a range of other services including economic development; airport service; land use planning; police services; waste management; emergency preparedness and response; roads and bridges; part X of the Provincial Offences Act, which regulates a number of minor offences normally dealt with by a justice of the peace; and any other services designated by the minister.
Bill 12 also contains changes to the 20-year-old Local Services Boards Act. Northerners recommended to us that local services boards should be able to assume responsibilities for local roads. This change should help to reduce overlap and volunteer workload. Existing local roads boards will also be able to band together to form one local services board to deliver road services if they decide to do so.
We are working with northerners and their community leaders to provide them with models of service delivery that reflect northern circumstances. We believe that during these hearings northerners will confirm that Bill 12 is another significant step in that direction.
Finally, I'd like to thank those who are taking time to present their views on Bill 12. Expression is the essence of the legislative process and these public hearings are an important form of expression for those who care about their communities. We undertake them not because we are mandated to do so. We undertake them knowing that individual expression can make a positive difference. We undertake them because they lend a voice to local citizens, the people who know what is best for their communities.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Thank you very much, Mr Hardeman. Good morning to everybody and welcome to Thunder Bay. I certainly would like to pass on our condolences to Mr Spina in terms of the death in his family. We feel very badly for him.
We are glad to have an opportunity to have public hearings. When we were in second reading debate it was something that we very strongly felt had to happen. I think there was some reluctance on the part of the government at the beginning, but we're glad that indeed there was agreement finally that there should be public hearings. I think we're going to hear a number of things that will be interesting. There will be some suggestions for change that I hope the government members will be open to. In some way I'd like my remarks to reflect what I see to be some of those concerns.
It's important to state off the top that people do need to understand that this is a process that's come about in essence because of the downloading process that the government began back in January 1997. I'm sure most people recognize that, but I think if the downloading process wasn't in place, this piece of legislation wouldn't need to be in place at all in terms of the services. Of course it's a process that many of us continue to be concerned about, particularly in northern Ontario. We believe this downloading is probably going to have a much larger impact on northern Ontario municipalities than on other municipalities, although it's clearly not revenue-neutral anywhere in the province, which leads me to a concern that we have. If I may, I will get an opportunity to ask you the question, Mr Hardeman, as well.
We know there's a special assistance fund that's in place in terms of transition funding. We know that it's been in place for a couple of years. One of the things that I think will be asked is whether the special assistance fund, which is supposed to reflect the fact that the revenue-neutrality isn't there, will be maintained. I think that will be asked today by some of the people who are coming forward for presentations. I trust that the government members and the minister have given some thought to that. I think it's very important that there be a recognition that at the end of the process it could ultimately mean much higher property tax increases for people who live in the north. We hope that the commitment to revenue-neutrality will be reflected in maintaining special assistance funds.
There are many other concerns that we have. One relates specifically to public health. Our party has maintained very strongly that one of the parts of the downloading process that should not be in place is the downloading of public health to municipalities.
We'll be hearing today from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, Dr David Williams, who will be speaking in terms of the concerns that they have, which is the way the public health units are now presently set up. They also believe very strongly that indeed public health should not be downloaded to municipalities. I would continue to maintain, as I think our party would, that this is something that should not be downloaded to the municipalities and the province should maintain responsibility for it.
I think there are some great concerns expressed over the fact that health units are set up at this stage now in a district-wide set-up and there are some concerns that there could be a situation where governance will be quite confused. There'll be set-ups for the health units that will not necessarily be reflective of the area services boards that could be put in place, which should cause a great deal of confusion in terms of implementation and various other things as well. That is a great concern. Again, I think the government needs to address that particular and very precise problem that appears to be in place right now in terms of the set-ups of the district health units as opposed to what the area services boards might end up being.
There are a couple of parts in the specifics of the legislation that make us concerned about the fact that indeed it is enabling legislation yet there are some sections that suggest that the minister will still be in a position where he can force districts or municipalities to make decisions based on the fact that he has the ultimate power to change their minds.
Subsection 37(1) reads, "One or more municipalities or local services boards or the residents of unorganized territory may make a proposal to establish an area services board for the consolidation of service delivery by submitting to the minister a report containing" various aspects. But subsection (2) says, "The minister may establish principles that municipalities, local services boards and residents of unorganized territory shall consider when developing a proposal to be submitted to the minister."
That has some concern for us, because what it suggests is that regardless of what the municipalities or the districts put forward, the minister may say, "These are principles by which you must be guided." On the one hand, you say it's enabling legislation and you say that the municipalities or the local services boards have an opportunity to bring that forward, yet there may be principles that the minister will force upon them.
I too would wish on behalf of Mr Wood and our caucus to issue our most sincere condolences, at least convey our sentiments. We share in the sorrow of a distinguished and very good person, a very good colleague. He's nearly a seatmate. We sit across the aisle and exchange some views over time in the House.
On Bill 12, I guess the government must have looked at the Thunder Bay phone directory and the surrounding areas and said, "Is there anyone we haven't antagonized in the province of Ontario?" Then they matched with the computer and found the unorganized territories and said, "We might as well ask them to grab a number."
The reality is that people are about to embark on what is for them a new system, new responsibilities, added costs, added responsibilities. The reality will attest that there's very little money to pay for those new responsibilities. They weren't consulted. They have no industrial assessment, no mills, no big General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, whatever, so there's no money to be taken from that. They also have very little commercial assessment. By and large, they shop in the closest municipality. If you're around Thunder Bay, you do your shopping in Thunder Bay and then you go back home, which is the unorganized territory. You're left with a very small pool, resource of municipal assessment.
By and large, the people who live in those communities are not rich. It's not the kind of group that you would meet at the club you frequent. It's not the Toronto Club, the well-to-do, the people you know.
I see this as the last grab. This is the last straw. Let's face facts: In the real political world you're not going to get anything here. Take that to the bank. In fact, both opposition parties are hoping that you do well so that the incumbent can say that you've split the vote. I don't care what your riding association is saying. I've been working with you people for 14 years.
There are very slim pickings here. It's like the blueberries this year. You've got strawberries, a few; you've got raspberries, a lot; but you've got no blueberries. You come to Manitouwadge -- I've been picking for three days -- and my wife says, "Gilles, you're such a slow picker, you go to Thunder Bay." So I drove in last night.
More seriously on the bill, we represent some 40 communities in the riding of Lake Nipigon, 26% of the overall land mass. Not one of the municipalities that is impacted by this bill, not one of those unorganized territories, has been contacted. Ask people. There's been no referendum. There has been no contact so people can voice by ballot their preference, because they want to stay where they are; they want to stay as they are. There is no guarantee that their taxes will not go up. I don't see this in Bill 12. I don't see any guarantees of grants. All I see is, "Trust me, trust me, trust me."
Politicians don't have the best reputation when using those words. I think they'll be left holding the bag unless you entertain some amendments that will give them the money in their jeans to be able to afford the new responsibilities. The municipalities around them don't want them, by and large, because they see them as underserviced and they will have to provide the service and they see very little possibility of assessment. The people in the municipalities feel that they're subjected to a grab from the government.
I think when the government says it listens -- you should ask, then you listen to what people are saying. Put yourself in their shoes, madame, and you will get a resounding "No." You don't have to do this. Sometimes it's better to do nothing. Let it be. Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: We'd ask the representatives from the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce to come forward and begin their presentation on Bill 12. I'd ask that you identify yourselves for the purposes of Hansard. You have 20 minutes in which to make a presentation and you may use part or all of that time. If there is time available, then we will entertain questions from the representatives here. Please go ahead.
Mr Barry Streib: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here this morning. My name is Barry Streib, first vice-chair of the chamber of commerce. With me to make this presentation to the standing committee on general government is the chamber president and CAO, Rebecca Johnson. She also serves as the coordinator for the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce.
Thank you for providing the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce the opportunity to address you this morning on the Northern Services Improvement Act and its potential impact on businesses in northwestern Ontario.
The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce has a membership of 975 member firms and over 1,300 voting representatives. The Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce includes over 2,100 businesses throughout the northwestern area of Ontario.
We commend the present provincial government for their business focus. The chamber also congratulates the government on the Red Tape Commission's report and examination of reduction of massive layers of legislation. We are concerned with the present legislation before us today in the Northern Services Improvement Act and the impact it could potentially have on business taxes. It also increases the levels of government. There will be more legislation and ultimately more bureaucracy.
Not only locally but through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, we have stressed the need to reduce levels of government. In southern Ontario we see that regional government is being reduced, and now we find it puzzling that there is a proposal under Bill 12 to impose regional government here in the north. Through the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce we have requested that we continually explore ways and means to reduce government.
The chamber recognizes that those residents who are currently living in unorganized townships must pay their fair share of the responsibilities now being downloaded to municipalities. An example that is not acceptable is shown when, on a road divided down the middle between an organized and an unorganized township, those on one side of the road pay a municipal tax to an organized township and those on the other side of the road pay considerably less tax. This issue must be addressed, but not necessarily through Bill 12.
We recommend that adjoining municipalities incorporate these outstanding townships. At present, the provincial government subsidizes these residents as there is insufficient assessment to pay for their new municipal level services. These grants should continue for a period of time, perhaps three to five years, with municipalities ultimately responsible for all costs incurred. This grandfathering would provide the necessary time to residents and municipalities to adjust to the new taxes required.
The new section, part II to the Local Services Improvement Act, is legislating the consolidation of delivery of specified public services in northern Ontario through area services boards. Ladies and gentlemen, this is another level of government, one in which we as the business community, in conjunction with residents, which we are also, must pay for.
We are fortunate in that the townships surrounding Thunder Bay have been actively working towards a solution to the costs incurred with additional responsibilities downloaded from the provincial government. Two municipalities have amalgamated, namely, Oliver and Paipoonge, to create a new municipality, Oliver Paipoonge. Neebing will also annex two unorganized townships, Scoble and Pearson, within their boundary in January 1999.
Although there have been other discussions to amalgamate, none have materialized at this time. As noted, though, several of the townships are working to reduce their costs by working together in the areas of social assistance, homes for the aged etc through the district social services administration board. Regretfully the DSSAP is in default.
Thunder Bay regional municipalities must also address the fact that the city of Thunder Bay will probably not wish to participate in a services board and how that will impact on what occurs in northwestern Ontario. This has been shown in the city of Thunder Bay not voting to be part of the district social services administration board.
The chamber acknowledges that Bill 12 proposes that one or more municipalities or local services boards or the residents of unorganized territory may make a proposal to establish an area services board and that it is not legislated. It is also identified that there is only a three-year window to opt into the service board. Although the board is not mandatory, the legislation leaves a municipality with little choice. All municipalities recognize that unorganized township residents must pay their fair share. Now is not the time to legislate a new layer of government, such as is proposed in Bill 12, but to allow municipalities to be creative and determine their own fate.
We do not see any regulations attached to the legislation which really provide specifics to how the legislation will be enacted, which does not assist in providing direction or how to respond to some aspects of Bill 12 today at these hearings.
The one component that does not sit well with the chamber and the business community is the provision to pay for the services board. Businesses already pay their share of support generally as a business, and in most cases an additional share as a resident.
Under subsection 40(1), "a board may establish its own rules and procedures." If they don't, it is not clear who will establish the rules. We assume it is the minister and that the regulations are not in place.
The chamber recognizes that services have been downloaded to municipalities. This is a matter between the municipalities and the provincial government and we will not speak on this issue during this time. We only comment that government needs to examine all areas of governing and look for the best method of providing services at an affordable cost. It must be remembered that there is only one taxpayer whether taxes are municipal, provincial or federal.
"A board may charge fees in respect of the required services it provides in the board area" -- subsection 41(6). "For the funding service delivery in a board area, tax may be levied on all real property in the board area that is liable to assessment and taxation under the Assessment Act or the Provincial Land Tax Act" -- subsection 43(1). As noted previously, the chamber is most concerned about the additional costs incurred with another level of government.
You are recommending two taxation models, sections 44 and 49, and also the establishment of tax ratios, section 51. Again, the setting of tax ratios has no regulations attached. It is difficult to see the impact of same without knowing what rules are attached to their establishment.
Setting tax ratios "must be within the allowable range prescribed in the regulations for the property tax" -- subsection 51(5). It is difficult to speak on this section as we are unaware of the regulations. There is certainly a concern in that "the tax ratio...may be outside the allowable range" -- subsection 51(6). The chamber assumes you have seen the report undertaken by KPMG regarding the Sudbury situation and how the tax is increased by $415 per head. At this time, northwestern Ontario cannot absorb an additional tax increase no matter what the rationale for an increase may be.
In conclusion, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce recommends that municipalities in northern Ontario work towards amalgamating services provided to their residents and businesses: ratepayers. With the downloading that is currently occurring and the increased cost to municipalities and ultimately to the taxpayer, cost-efficiencies must be carefully examined. Elected governments in individual municipalities are responsible to the taxpayer for the rate of taxes assessed in that particular municipality. This accountability should be left with the individual councils realizing that they must work towards keeping taxes at a rate acceptable to their taxpayers.
The chamber requests that the government let northern Ontario municipalities make their own decisions as to how they should adapt to the new environment they find themselves in. We do not require southern Ontario solutions to our challenges.
Mr Gravelle: Good morning, Mr Streib and Ms Johnson. Welcome. You made reference, obviously in a large fashion, to something I didn't get a chance to in my opening remarks, which is that in essence this piece of legislation would set up another level of government, another layer of government, regional government. It's one that you obviously have great concerns about as well.
I don't mean to put you on the spot, but I probably am. As a result of that and other concerns you have about the taxing process, are you asking the government to withdraw this legislation, to say that this is a piece of legislation that really should not be pushed forward any further?
Ms Rebecca Johnson: As we have said in our presentation, we are looking at not having another level of government at all. Whether it's the withdrawal of Bill 12, it's definitely an examination of it. We oppose another level of government completely. We feel that the municipalities are working towards amalgamating, to annexing townships, towards creating a foundation that will address unorganized township situations, that it would be in the best interests of the north to let those in the north come up with a solution and not have it imposed by government.
Mr Gravelle: It does seem ironic, doesn't it, while this government talks about less government and certainly is moving in that direction in other parts of the province, to actually be bringing forward legislation that would in essence impose another level of government seems pretty bizarre, I guess is a way of putting it.
Mr Gravelle: Absolutely, and it's much appreciated. Also your concerns expressed about the whole taxing process: Again, if the regulations aren't there for you to see it, that also makes it very difficult, almost, to comment on, doesn't it, because you can't make an honest reflection of what it's going to ultimately mean. Those concerns I think you expressed very well too.
Mr Pouliot: I listened intently -- we all did -- to your comments. Am I right in assuming that the cities will pay more taxes because they'll have to take care of new services on behalf of Bill 12? Also, would I be right in assuming that the unorganized territories will pay more taxes? The trick here could be that the government pays less because it downloads new responsibilities and lets the unorganized territories and the organized neighbours pick up the slack. They are left holding the bag. They pay for the services and the province says: "Okay, we've downloaded. We no longer pay. You fix it up between you two."
Ms Johnson: What we are looking at is the fact that it is time to be creative in our province. We can no longer just keep taxing but we can no longer keep doing business the way we have done for the last five, 10, 20, whatever number of years it is. We have to look at governing our province in a different way, whether that's at the provincial or the municipal level. Within that context, there is no question that there are no more taxes, so how do we reassign those or realign those?
We are not going to get into a discussion on it this morning because there isn't the time and that's not what we're here to address in relationship to how and what the government should download to the municipal level, but certainly within the context of the downloading there has to be provision and understanding that the taxpayer can only pay so many taxes. How that is addressed is not ours to decide here this morning, but if you'd like, we would be very happy to sit down and talk to you about that at another time.
Mr Pouliot: I'll give you an example of a territory with which I'm familiar, the thriving metropolis of Caramat, Heron Bay; not the native community but Heron Bay township. Where we live, they abound. They're the order of the day, not the exception. There is no assessment. To take one added responsibility, aside from volunteer fire protection, some road maintenance, some recreation, for which they all get grants, by the way, and to say, "Now you will be responsible for so-and-so situations, endeavours," there is no guarantee. People are very hesitant. Their tax rate could easily double with one more responsibility. If they can't pay it, then Thunder Bay, in this case, will pick it up. The district will pick it up. There is no secret here.
I came here this morning expecting that the chamber of commerce, with the highest of respect, would at least give tacit agreement. It's in your philosophy: less government, cut through red tape, "Get off my back," "Stand on your own two feet." I'm surprised at you. What you are saying is that your conclusion is that you are opposed to this bill, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I think they should throw it in the garbage can, never to surface again, and everybody will be happy. They are not banging on the doors to have Bill 12 come through.
Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Thank you very much for your presentation. You're very strong on cost-efficiencies, that there's only one taxpayer and that governments at all levels should look at reducing costs and amalgamating services. Could you comment on how you feel the area services boards -- you did comment about probably increasing taxes to another level of government. To my mind, this is enabling legislation. It's voluntary. I'd just like to hear your comments a little bit more in depth on how you figure there are going to be tax increases when the purpose of the bill is to allow municipalities and larger service areas to amalgamate, to be more cost-efficient and to give the tools to municipalities and areas, especially in the north, to give quality service at reduced cost.
I'd like you to expand, because it's voluntary and because the purpose of the bill is to allow for cost-efficiencies of services in large areas, on how you feel there would be tax increases or that it would be another level of government. I'm just trying to understand that because you don't have to implement this if you don't want to.
Ms Johnson: That's quite correct in relationship to "You don't have to do this." Let's put it this way: Once government puts legislation in place, it makes it a little easier for some municipalities to go about establishing an area board and within that, because the legislation is there, it just becomes a norm and a pattern for doing it. That does not necessarily mean that you can have cost-efficiencies.
If you look at the geographical area of this part of the province, to even get people together -- within the act it talks about teleconferencing, but do you have any idea what teleconferencing costs in this part of the province? We're going to enter in one and at 10 o'clock I have to be on one. We're looking at one hour, $600 to be on a teleconference, and we have that every six weeks with our northwestern Ontario chambers of commerce. This is very costly in this part of the province.
What we're recommending is that the municipalities leave them and let them decide their own way of doing it without imposing legislation that either they can opt into or they can't opt into. We feel that the municipalities really are trying, realizing that there is a new environment they're living in, and also feeling very strongly that they have to look at cost-efficiencies, that there is a way they can do and then they will do it.
But give them a little bit of time -- we're suggesting three to five years here -- even to incorporate or annex some of the unorganized townships. We recognize that is an issue. We are the only part of the province that has unorganized townships that the government currently has to pay for. But there has to be a better way of doing it than putting other kinds of legislation in place that we have to either opt into -- and when it's there, it seems it's an easier way to do it. That's not necessarily the best answer.
Dr David Williams: Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee, for the opportunity to speak on Bill 12 today officially as Dr David C. Williams speaking as the medical officer of health for the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, the board of health, and also as the chair of the Ontario Medical Association section of public health physicians.
The intended purpose of Bill 12 is to "provide choice and flexibility to northern residents in the establishment of service delivery mechanisms that recognize the unique circumstances of northern Ontario and to allow increased efficiency and accountability...."
As the medical officer of health and on behalf of the Ontario Medical Association -- you'll hear later on today from the president -- we have concerns about that. I thank Mr Gravelle for his comments and concerns about public health and its lack of proper fit in the downloading process. Nevertheless, we have concerns that the bill, as tabled at this time, will do very little to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of delivery of public health in northern Ontario.
As I've noted in my documents here, provision of public health services and preventive programs and shared governance, funding and coordination at the local, provincial and federal level are essential. The Health Protection and Promotion Act has laid that out and given a firm legislative foundation to deliver this adequately in a province-wide format. Amendments have been put through to further strengthen the act. Furthermore, Management Board of Cabinet of this government in 1996 approved a business plan for public health that was highly applauded by that cabinet committee. It laid out three priorities. Enactment of the NSIA, if I can use the acronym of Bill 12, will undermine and conflict with those business plans that were approved.
The value of the Northern Services Improvement Act, I feel, is the recognition of the complexity and the cost of delivering programs and services to the citizens of northern Ontario, including first nation communities. The proposed act does very little to clarify these issues and to deal with them. It does seek to add an additional tax to those residing in unorganized territories, many of whom are already paying taxes in other forms provincially and on their primary residence. Serious consideration has to be given to looking at northern Ontario in a more "territorial" aspect, if I can use that word, because of its uniqueness to the large size and the large areas dealt with, to ensure that funding for these is equitable across the province and fair and reasonable.
If you look at the map of Thunder Bay District Health Unit, we comprise 27% of the land mass of Ontario. The three northern health units of Northwestern, Thunder Bay and Porcupine cover 60% of Ontario, not 60% of the population or the commercial property tax base of the province. Most of those resources go to the tax base at the provincial level and federal level that are not actually allocated or denoted in this act. The cost of a flight, for example, from here up to one of our northern areas if we had to cover it is $1,300 to $1,800 one way. You've already travelled halfway here on one part of your trip today and you have further to travel yet to cover the distances.
The proper recognition of the territorial aspect of this and other northern health units should initiate under this act, or bill if it's going to be in a proper way, some way of enhancing the roles of area-wide governments and how to deal with this in a proper joint effort between provincial-municipal and federal and self-governed first nations, if that's required in the future.
First of all, in the business plan put forward by the province they looked at the DSSABs, as you want to call them, and they used boards of health as the template, as the exemplary model of how to lay out area-wide governance. That's from a point of having locally elected municipal officials dealing with a levy that was matched by grants from the province to allow them to deal with equitable delivery of programs and services.
In that business plan they agreed to reduce the number of boards of health in the province from 42 to 32. That did not include the city of Toronto. They did so by looking at the costing of that and said that health units of less than a population certainly of 50,000 and even of 100,000 did not give that effective base to make it cost-effective. We agreed to do that and moved in that direction to seek to have ones with a population base of 150,000 to 250,000.
In the DSSAB movement at this time, there was already the potential of having at least 12, potentially 15, in place of the present seven northern health units -- eight if you want to include Muskoka-Parry Sound. If you use this act and the area services board, it will be most beneficial for municipalities in a way to cut their losses by making their areas very small geographically and maintaining their maximum income base. Thus, we could have even more ASBs and DSSABs in the future and this would lead to even greater inefficiencies since every ASB under the act would become a board of health. We'd go from seven or eight to 12 to 15 and more, even having to have a medical officer of health and the infrastructure and all the rest, which of course I cannot see being fiscally reasonable or effective and efficient.
Second, the funding of public health services: In a document produced on the equitable funding of provincial public health services, it was found in the document applauded by Management Board of Cabinet that northern Ontario health units required 25% to 40% more per capita to fund than the average in Ontario, not on the basis of utilization but on the basis of objective needs identified in statistical studies.
As well, northern health units also take on the job of providing services and programs that are provided already by provincially funded institutions in the south that due to size and lack of staff resources are available in the north through health units. These include genetic counselling, speech language pathology and audiology programs. These are due to come off the books potentially on March 30, 1999 and it will fall into the hands of northern municipal taxpayers to pay for them, whereas in the south they are already available through provincial programs.
As well, there is the unorganized territory grant that has been made available to cover the wide areas. If one looks at our areas, those that are covered in municipalities and in the unorganized municipal townships comprise less than 10% of the area covered by the Northwestern Health Unit and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. What will become of those? Who is responsible to cover those? At the moment, the district health unit and its board covers those. The unorganized territory grants are also due potentially to come off the books at the end of March 1999. That will add further cost per capita, already alluded to by the KPMG study in Sudbury, increasing further the unfairness of the downloading process on northern residents.
That could cost up to $20 per capita just on the loss of the unorganized territory grant alone. Therefore, we have to address that issue as well. How will that be handled, unless the government agrees, in a structuring model, to come into a joint funding mechanism in a true territorial manner and to ask for federal involvement as well, as already alluded to by Mr Pouliot, to deal with our first nation citizens? We want to be able to deliver fair and equitable services when they come on and off reserves. Will it mean that in the absence of it under ASBs only ratepayers are allowed the provision of public health services, as compared to the citizens of Ontario who may not reside within those municipal bounds?
So there are major problems to be dealt with in the funding to give fair, equitable coverage across Ontario. Unlike the other ones noted in your act as core programs, public health is not, I may say, municipally centric. It has to cover a wide area, including boundaries with the States, Manitoba and with our partners across the whole province for tight coordination.
That brings me to the third point, that the business plan approved dealing with equitable and excellent service delivery across the province, tight coordination provincially, laying out strong standards that have to be maintained and attained. In Bill 12 you would remove that further from the Ministry of Health into multiple-area services boards that have less potential to coordinate the need to respond rapidly to outbreaks of communicable diseases that require swift resources and coordinated action province-wide, and at times nationally, to deal with these issues. So again, we have to address that issue.
Finally, in the area of integrated health services, where already the Health Services Restructuring Commission has declared that we should form integrated health services and the Minister of Health has ratified that in the northwest and northeast, we had that challenged. Already the northwest integrated health network has agreed that public health is essential, but even the Health Services Restructuring Commission says that under municipal models and under this bill don't know how that would work at all, since it needs to be worked and coordinated with other provincially funded institutions, again bringing back the need to have cost-sharing between the province and municipalities to deal with it.
In summary, I feel we already have an excellent model of area-wide delivery in boards of health. They are the example for the province. If there is anything from this act to build on, it is to enhance boards of health as northern service boards with joint provincial-municipal funding and governance where required; to have northern service boards which could include land ambulance; and that district social services administration boards, DSSABs, can be considered as optional members when they are ready to join a large area. Any board's form should the same bounds as boards of health or larger if amalgamation permits that and allows for greater efficiencies. Finally, northern boards established under this act must be fully compliant with other existing acts and legislation.
The riding of Lake Nipigon extends to Hudson Bay, the northernmost community. I live in Manitouwadge and I've been there for 33 years. Our riding is 1,000 miles long. I'm closer to Toronto, being in Manitouwadge, than I am to some parts of our riding. It's 114,000 square miles, the size of Germany, and yet has only 33,000 people. It would be farcical if someone were to suggest that once the majority muscle is used, once we become like the others -- are we to assume that every one of us will be getting sewers and water, as opposed to septic tanks? Of course not.
The sum total here when all is said and done is that no one benefits. There is a cost associated with these services which is right in front of you and then it only escalates. You too are the victim of downloading, except that in this case you don't have the ability to pass the buck to your commercial entity nor to apply for a new tax levy to your industrial entity.
Ms Jones and Mr Smith who live in a small -- hopefully with some relatively recent siding and a roof job. In those unorganized territories they pay $200 to $400 per annum in taxes. Now with the cost of a land ambulance, for instance, if it's passed along to them, their cost will not go down. It can only go one way and that's up. There is a reason why they choose to be there, which is that they can't afford to foot the bill in many ways. The municipalities don't want them. They see them as not paying their fair share, as being a little odd. They don't want to be with the municipalities, otherwise they would have moved there some time back -- today or tomorrow.
The thing is, why would a government, except if it has ulterior motives, and the ulterior motive is very simple -- they wish to save money because you've got to satisfy, among other things, a tax cut which is costing $5.4 billion. Somebody has to pay, so you pick a little bit here, a little bit there and a little bit there. They call it new sharing arrangements and so on. They know it's downloading.
Mayor Krause of Schreiber is right at the back. He is trying to reconcile -- he's sorry that he ran for office. I think he makes about $4,000 a year doing that. He was telling me in the corridor, "I don't know what the tax bill will be." I mean, this is August. Their fiscal year ends --
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, doctor, for your presentation this morning. It's a very well prepared and well-thought-out presentation, in particular as it relates to the issue of the differences between the situation as it sits in southern Ontario and in northern Ontario, and the large variance between the geographic area and the population and the assessment base that has to serve the needs of the people.
I think a big portion of your presentation deals with the realignment of services and the fairness and cost-effectiveness and ability of the local municipalities to raise the taxes to cover their share of those realignments. I would point out that the minister and the government recognize the same thing the boards of health have recognized: that there is a great a difference between the transfer of services in the north and in the south.
I would point out in the document I have here the fact of the community reinvestment fund, that you relate how much more of the geographic area is governed in the north than in the south. In the community reinvestment fund, the government allocated $268 million to offset the disparity in the realignment between the provincial and municipal services, and $268 million went to the north, which is 40% of the funding in that fund, because those disparities do exist, again to make sure that the needs of the north were looked after. There was another fund set up in a two-year program to help communities with the transition, and there again the north got 25% of those funds, recognizing that difference between the north and the south. I think we shared that concern with you and have addressed that in the grants that will come to the north to help offset these costs.
You put forward the issue that allowing municipalities to set up various service boards would somehow encourage them to divide up or to create more boards of health than presently exist. Recognizing that the intent of the legislation, first of all, is that it's enabling legislation, the requirement being, of course, that what they put forward as area services boards is the most cost-effective and efficient way of delivering the services they're going to be responsible for delivering, how do you envision that a municipality putting forward a proposal for doubling the number of boards of health would somehow be a more cost-effective and efficient way of delivering those services for the people they represent? If it's not, why would they want to do that if it's going to be a greater cost, recognizing it's a municipal cost we're talking about? In your view, why would they want to set up more boards of health in order to increase their costs to the taxpayers they represent?
Dr Williams: I think that's a good question. You have to look at examples that exist even presently in Ontario, where obviously it does not make sense to do that. But for cost expediency they would attempt to do that and probably not convene boards of health in the proper way. We already have municipalities in the southwest of the province that at this time do not have in place the proper resources, in violation of the act, and are choosing to do so regardless of that.
Is that going to be enforced by the government, to ensure that if you're going to form an ASB, you have all the provisions, as if it was a board of health, all the resources under the Health Protection and Promotion Act? Unless that's provided, it will be required. That's the question we have to ask.
Already there are a number of them that have amalgamated or probably should amalgamate. In southwestern Ontario they have chosen not to, but have chosen also to disregard the requirements of the law in the acts and to continue to wait until they're forced either through legislation or through penalties/offences to adhere to those. It is concerning. I have those concerns and so does the Ontario Medical Association that provision of public health is not looking for the best benchmark but looking for the minimum you can get away with. I'm concerned about that.
Mr Miclash: Before my colleague puts forth his question, Dr Williams, I think you've said a good number of things that we'll hear again from Dr Sarsfield in Kenora when the committee travels to Kenora. I have to thank you for your math at the end of your presentation because we quite often find that people travelling from southern Ontario just don't understand the distances and the cost of doing business.
You gave a great example of one-way airfares into some parts of your region as being between $1,300 and $1,800 -- again just a good presentation and one that certainly puts forth some of the reasons why we have to be looked at as a unique area in Ontario.
Mr Gravelle: Thank you very much. Dr Williams, there are so many issues to discuss and very little time, obviously, but if I may, I'd like to give you the opportunity to explain why you feel strongly, as indeed I know you do, about the fact that public health itself being downloaded to municipalities is wrong and can be a danger. I'd love to give you that opportunity because from my point of view the process begins there. I still think we should be fighting that fight. I would love to have your thoughts on that.
Dr Williams: As we've expressed before, the Ontario Medical Association's concern is that public health across the whole country is generally run with tight provincial coordination because response has to be consistent and rapid in dealing with outbreaks of diseases. Infectious diseases don't respect municipal boundaries, and even provincial boundaries, to that extent. As a result, when they passed, we had the cost-sharing of the 75-25 in the north here, and throughout most of the province it allowed municipal input their chance to discuss accountability locally with provincial granting to give them equitable services.
With that loss at that stage -- even now we've heard from Mr Pouliot -- we've had to make some cuts. We've cut two offices and staff in our smaller communities because they don't have the tax base to hold that together. Recently we had an outbreak of response to a food problem in southern Ontario and a federal problem, and we had to spend a lot of time following that up in northern Ontario. We didn't create the problem and yet the municipalities have to pay for the cost of dealing with the problem. It required tight provincial coordination and rapid response that even at this time was not as forthcoming as it should have been as fragmentation is already occurring.
It's essential that the province maintain a very well coordinated, tight public health program. One only has to look at the Time magazine articles about E coli and all the other outbreaks and the public demand and desire and expectation to have a public health system that responds proactively in a way that brings about a reduction in disease and illness, or a lot of apprehension and worry about them tend to turn into panic.
That's a provincial responsibility primarily with, I believe, as we have in the past, local input on our boards of health that gives local accountability and input that make it a community initiative as well. But they cannot afford it on their own. There are a number of initiatives that are required province-wide and nationally.
The Vice-Chair: I'd like to call upon the representative for the municipality of Thunder Bay. I believe we have Brian MacRae here. Good morning, Mr MacRae, and welcome to the standing committee on general government.
First of all, I would like to say that the presentation you're going to hear was before our municipal council last night and was unanimously endorsed and therefore is before you having been duly considered by council.
The issue of service delivery on an area-wide basis has actually been on the city's agenda for some time -- in fact, we can go back to late 1997, early 1998 -- and through a resolution of council a committee representing the city, the Thunder Bay District Municipal League and representatives of the unincorporated areas spent a good deal of time meeting for the purpose of developing a mechanism to address the delivery of various services on an area-wide basis. We did recognize the value in that for at least some of the municipalities in the district and worked diligently to try and accomplish that.
Although the committee did achieve consensus around a service delivery model, that model unfortunately was not endorsed by the majority of the members of the Thunder Bay District Municipal League. Therefore we were unable to reach a satisfactory agreement by the government-imposed deadline of March 31, 1998. As a result, the city, frankly through no fault of its own, found itself in the default position resulting in the creation of the provincially ordered district social services administration board, or what I will call DSSAB from here on, for the entire district, as well as finding itself part of a working group with representatives of the province and the district to discuss representation on the said DSSAB.
The working group in turn developed a proposal for presentation to municipal councils around the district before July 15, 1998. On July 13 our municipal council dealt with the matter and passed a resolution indicating two things: number one, and I think it's important to highlight number one, that they did not support the DSSAB governance model, period, and that they did not support the representation model that had been put together by the working group.
Council further requested a meeting with both the Minister of Community and Social Services and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines to discuss the inappropriateness of the government's decision and to offer viable alternatives. We weren't there just to complain. We were there to say that we didn't believe the model worked and that there were viable alternatives. Unfortunately, the ministers were unavailable to meet and as recently as yesterday His Worship Mayor Ken Boshcoff received a letter from ministers Ecker and Hodgson indicating that the single DSSAB would stand for this district. As a result of that they passed a resolution last night expressing great concern with respect to continuing with the DSSAB model and again have asked the ministers to reconsider their position in that regard. I offer this as history, because it does tie directly into the area services board issue that is before you in the legislation you're dealing with here.
As you will have already understood, we have expressed on several occasions our concern with respect to the establishment of a DSSAB or an area services board. In our view, either board, be it DSSAB or ASB, will simply result in additional costs for the administration of the defined services for all the residents under its jurisdiction and will add no value in terms of client service. A DSSAB or an ASB simply creates another level of government, and does so at a time when the province has indicated in its own consolidated service management document a desire to build effective local systems in the disentanglement of government services.
The provincial government has also stated that opportunities would arise to simplify access to services and to serve clients better, with a stronger focus on coordination, sharing of resources and economies of scale. The city of Thunder Bay does not see that the creation of a DSSAB or an ASB will accomplish these objectives. In fact, we see the exact opposite being true. We see another level of government being laid over top of an already effective service delivery mechanism and infrastructure, with absolutely no benefit to the clients in this city.
Further, we believe the assumption that one model would serve the needs of all districts in northern Ontario is flawed and does not take into consideration the differences in terms of distances and populations that need to be served. For example, the districts of Kenora and Rainy River have population bases of roughly 36,000 and 18,000 respectively, while the population of the district of Thunder Bay is about 149,000. The largest municipalities in the Kenora-Rainy River districts represent 26% and 45% of their populations respectively, whereas in the Thunder Bay district, the city by itself represents about 80% of the 149,000 population in the district. It is a very different situation, a very different circumstance. To look at a model that may work in Kenora and suggest that the same model could work as effectively in Thunder Bay without considering the merits of that just does not make sense to us.
The city of Thunder Bay notes that there are existing representation problems on other boards, such as the district health unit and the Lakehead Regional Conservation Authority, whereby representation is not consistent with funding obligations. The city is trying to avoid another situation where the voting power of the elected representatives does not in any way represent the size of either their respective constituencies or their financial obligations.
If the intent, and I do say "if," is primarily to provide services and an appropriate taxing model for residents in the unincorporated areas of northern Ontario, a model to provide residents in those areas with services, some of which they may already be accessing in neighbouring municipalities, and shifting the responsibility for taxing to those municipalities for recovery of costs, could be achieved without, in our opinion, the overkill of another level of government.
To reiterate, the citizens of Thunder Bay will receive no added value with the establishment of either a DSSAB or an ASB. The residents will experience the additional costs of administering services for the district when the city currently has the infrastructure in place to satisfy the needs of its own residents. The other municipalities and unincorporated residents in the district could use the existing assets at less cost in a contract-for-service arrangement than will be the case with either a DSSAB or an ASB.
We're not saying that there shouldn't be some rationalization of government service. We're saying that through a contract-for-service-delivery model that can be achieved in a more effective way than through the creation of unnecessary levels of government or bureaucracy.
The representation currently being considered for the DSSAB is inconsistent with the population distribution in the district. With the city of Thunder Bay having approximately 80% of the district population and over 80% of the weighted assessment base, it seems to us unreasonable to be put in a position where a number of municipalities with small populations could dictate service levels and costs that would end up as an additional tax burden to the residents of the larger municipality.
As stated in a previous submission to the province, the representatives of the unincorporated areas, as well as the city, want to avoid an unnecessary structure, either in the form of a DSSAB or an ASB, and the unincorporated areas have supported the city's position that a contract-for-service model would be the most cost-effective basis on which to deliver services.
It is and remains the city's position that a contract-for-service arrangement would be the most cost-effective for the district of Thunder Bay, as well as the city of Thunder Bay. This type of arrangement would -- and this is important to all of the municipalities in the district -- leave control in the hands of local municipal councils, while still allowing everyone to gain the economies of scale for residents within their jurisdictions. This arrangement would also negate the necessity for establishing further bureaucratic structures that are unnecessary when there are already structures in place throughout the district to accommodate delivery of services, be they long-established services or newly downloaded services.
Whatever model is agreed to, it should produce savings among the small municipalities but it should not do so at the expense of the larger municipal units. Due to the distances involved in the district, it may make sense for a group of like municipalities to collaborate in the delivering of services without being dictated to by a board that may try to apply a one-size-fits-all model. A contract-for-service provider model or, in the short term, a two-DSSAB model such as the model that has been implemented in the Sault-Algoma region would be the most appropriate for the district of Thunder Bay and would achieve the government's consolidation objectives and be the most cost-effective approach.
To be clear here, we believe the contract-for-service delivery model is the most appropriate. Failing that, we believe a two-DSSAB model is a reasonable compromise that could allow the municipalities within the district to maintain local control and, at the same time, achieve the government objectives of consolidation and cost-effectiveness.
We should also point out that we do not see the establishment of a DSSAB as necessarily or automatically resulting in a move to an area services board. That said, we feel it is also appropriate to voice some specific concerns regarding the creation of an area services board.
A review of Bill 12 in comparison with the original Bill 174 shows minor changes, even though concerns were expressed on several occasions. The city of Thunder Bay, as well as many other municipalities, expressed opposition to the taxation models inherent in Bill 12. The taxing model described in section 44, which allows for the municipality to use its own tax ratios, meets the needs of municipalities and allows the councils of those municipalities to determine the appropriate tax policies for themselves. The elimination of section 44 on a date to be determined by the minister is not appropriate for the city of Thunder Bay and would absolutely preclude any reasonable opportunity for the city to become part of an ASB. The city could never envision being part of a structure where the taxing model in section 49 would be applied, allowing the ASB to determine the tax ratios for all of the municipalities that are represented through the board.
The application of this taxing model at a date determined by the minister would remove the ability of the council of the municipality to set tax policy that they feel would be appropriate for their own municipality and potentially shift and impose a tax burden on the citizens of the municipality without all factors being considered.
In a survey of the transition tax ratios of the 18 municipalities in the district a wide range was evident. The use of section 49, where the ASB determines the tax ratios for both the ASB and for its own municipal purposes, could create havoc within individual municipalities whose current ratios differ significantly from those which would be established for an ASB. A municipality with a high tax ratio in the commercial or industrial classes that was subject to the application of an average ratio calculated by the ASB could face a major shift of the tax burden that would be simply unbearable to its residential taxpayers.
An ASB may be appropriate in areas without the large disparities in population. Thus, the city of Thunder Bay strongly supports the principle that the legislation, if it continues through the Legislature, should not be mandatory but permissive, as is currently the case, allowing some -- again, albeit very limited, given what has happened with the DSSABs -- flexibility to accommodate the needs of northern residents.
In summary, we have consistently voiced our concern relative to the inconsistencies in the message being sent from the province in its documentation and the actions being taken with the imposition of DSSABs and the approach to ASBs. More government, in our opinion, is not better government and we need to ensure that models such as DSSABs or ASBs are used only in areas where they are widely supported and make sense in terms of service delivery and cost-effectiveness. Unfortunately, such is not the case in the context of the proposed models and the district of Thunder Bay, especially the city of Thunder Bay, which is home to about 80% of the district's population.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, sir, for your presentation. I realize that a lot of your presentation is hinged on the premise that in the DSSAB or an area service board you have a problem with a disproportion of your population being in the city and a much smaller amount -- an 80-20 split between the rest of the district and the city of Thunder Bay. You suggested that would make inappropriate types of decisions with the city not being able to speak with a voice in proportion to the amount of the assessment they would pay for any of these services, regardless of which board we would be referring to.
In the setting up of the DSSAB -- in fact the issue of the representation on the board has not yet been set; how many there should be has yet to be negotiated -- is it achievable to receive pay-for-say proportionately by having a 80-20 split on a board of either an area service board or the DSSAB?
Mr MacRae: In theory, I think it is achievable. The reality we're faced with this morning is that Ministers Ecker and Hodgson have announced that the DSSAB model for the district of Thunder Bay will be a 13-member board with six representatives from the city, five from incorporated municipalities in the district, one from the unincorporated areas and one appointment by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. What that essentially does is ignore the reality that the substantial majority of the population is resident in the city of Thunder Bay and in fact not leave with Thunder Bay representation that is consistent with either the amount of the population or the fact that the city is paying 80% of the bill.
Mr Gravelle: Thank you very much, Mr MacRae. What do you think is the real intent of the legislation? It has interested me. In many ways what we've got is warring legislation. As you know, you've got 152, which is the DSSAB legislation, and then you have Bill 12 being thrown in. What do you think is the real long-term purpose? As you pointed out, area service boards are in essence setting up another level of government -- there's no question about it -- and in your opinion, and in the opinion of many, they won't deliver services any better or more efficiently and at less cost. What do you see as the long-term intention of having this legislation go forward this way?
Mr MacRae: I think the long-term intent was to improve service delivery, especially in and among the smaller municipalities in the district. I think that is a laudable and an appropriate intent. Unfortunately, I think there are mechanisms in place that would allow that to happen in a more cost-effective way than the approach that is being put forward here. I think it's also again unfortunately the case that there seems to be a willingness to inflict additional costs and potentially an inability to provide the same level of service on, in this case, the one large municipal unit in the district. I think the consolidated service delivery approach has some merit. What we need to do is look at a way of achieving that without taking away the authority and the power that elected representatives of individual municipalities should have as they represent their constituents, and we should also look for a cost-effective mechanism for meeting the objectives of this government.
Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Along the same lines, when Bill 174 was introduced and then replaced by Bill 12, we were told that there was broad consultation across northern Ontario and everybody was satisfied with the minor changes that had been made in Bill 12, even though we questioned whether this was just another tax grab from the unorganized areas. Some of them are satisfied with the services they're getting right now. This is why they're living in unorganized areas. They don't want more policing, they don't want more opportunities for land ambulances. They're getting all those services now.
In your opinion, is this just a way of bringing the tax levels of the unorganized areas closer to what the organized areas are paying as the provincial government stops giving grants and continuing to support the unorganized areas?
Mr MacRae: In my personal opinion, yes. The initial intent I believe was to look at a different taxation model for the unincorporated areas. That, coupled with forcing different levels of service on many of those areas, led to a need to change the taxing model. Rather than look for an effective way to deal with service delivery on an as-needed basis in the unincorporated areas and to find an appropriate taxing mechanism, we've gone to what I've referred to as, and strongly believe to be, absolute overkill in terms of another level of government.
The Vice-Chair: I would like to call upon Michael Power, the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Good morning and welcome to the standing committee on general government. You have 20 minutes in which to make your presentation. You may use all or part of that, and if there is time available, we'll ask for questions from the caucus representatives.
Mr Michael Power: Thank you, Madam Chairman. It's a great pleasure to be with you, members of the standing committee. I want to thank you on behalf of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario for the opportunity to appear before you today to present issues which are crucial to municipal governments across northern Ontario.
My name is Michael Power. I am the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. I'm also the mayor of the town of Geraldton, centre of the great northwest, and as such a northern Ontarian. I would like to divide my comments into two parts. Sometimes it's difficult to wear to two hats but I'm going to attempt to do that with you this morning. I want to speak to you as the president of the association and fit our comments within our general policy framework. Then I'd like to share some comments with you as the mayor of the town of Geraldton from northern Ontario. I hope that will be acceptable.
This legislation holds a great deal of interest for all of us here in northern Ontario. As many of you know, AMO has consistently maintained that municipal governments must be given the tools and the accompanying flexibility to make local decisions regarding governance structures and service delivery. This is at the core of all AMO input and feedback to the provincial government on municipal initiative. Flexibility in legislation and the development of minimal regulation are critical to the successful transfer of roles and responsibilities from the province to municipal governments. Members of the committee, I cannot but underline the words "minimal regulation." That is absolutely crucial.
We have been asking the province for years, as municipal authorities, for the autonomy that goes hand in hand with ever-increasing responsibilities. Managing key services in our communities in a way that reflects local priorities, local innovation and local accountability is our business. As partners in government, municipalities are in the best position to determine the approaches and methods we need to manage more effectively and more efficiently.
Overall, I have to say that we are pleased with this legislation because it does just that. The government has presented us with enabling legislation that permits northern municipalities to establish area services boards should they choose to do so, and we underline the word "choose" in this case.
I believe it's important that we consider the intent of this legislation within the context of municipal government realities. We believe the government's intent with this legislation is to enhance the strong and vital role of municipal governments in northern Ontario, and that is a laudable goal. It is particularly critical in the face of the challenges which lie ahead in taking on the new responsibilities as part of the government's local services realignment.
With this legislation, northern municipal governments will be in a position to review options for governance and service delivery and to make local decisions regarding whether or not an area services board makes sense in their particular circumstances. The government must remain diligent in this regard as the legislation is reviewed and approved.
It is of vital importance that the development of subsequent regulations does not undermine the flexibility and the latitude that the bill as currently written provides to northern municipalities. Specifically, we caution the government not to undermine this positive permissive framework with overly restrictive regulations or highly specific principles for ministerial approval of municipal proposals. I think we can all agree that we must ensure that the flexibility provided through the draft legislation is not lost and that municipal governments, not the minister, are ultimately accountable for decisions regarding the delivery of municipal services.
Further, we believe that property taxpayers will be well served when municipalities make their own decisions on board structures, boundaries, cost-sharing approaches and services to be included in area services boards. This legislative framework is necessary so that local decisions can be made regarding the consolidation of municipal services. As such, this legislation must allow municipalities to make their own decisions about whether to move forward with a district social services board or to establish an area services board with a broader range of services.
In this respect, AMO contends that the ultimate success of this legislation will relate to the level of municipal government decision-making in developing appropriate mechanisms to carry out service responsibilities. The government must recognize that the solution may very well look different from community to community in relation to local conditions, opportunities and challenges.
AMO continues to take the position that municipalities need the tools to manage new funding responsibilities. Further, these tools should be fashioned in such a way as to assist municipal governments to maintain priority services without a major impact on property taxpayers.
An important consideration in funding municipal services is that property taxation matters are the responsibility of elected councils. Decisions affecting local services and service costs to the municipal property taxpayer must be made by duly elected municipal officials who are accountable to those taxpayers. Accountability is the expectation of property taxpayers, an expectation that must be met.
AMO believes that municipal input in the development of these regulations as well as the principles for ministerial approval of area services boards will be critical to the successful implementation of this act.
We are pleased to see the high level of municipal involvement in developing this legislation and expect the government will continue to work closely with municipalities in the next critical phase of its implementation.
Where municipalities choose to pursue the establishment of an area services board, it is obvious that property taxpayers will be best served when municipalities are in a position to make locally appropriate decisions.
Municipal elected officials must be provided with the authority to make and implement these local decisions in order to have accountability for service delivery and costs to the property taxpayers of their communities.
AMO supports this legislation and supports the work of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to implement this legislation in a way that will maximize its effectiveness for northern municipalities.
Having said that, I have a couple of comments as a northern municipal mayor. May I say to you that it is most unfortunate that the thought and the philosophy and the theory of Bill 12 were not carried forward in advance. Unfortunately, we have seen here in northern Ontario the imposition of district social services boards without the willingness of the local municipalities, without the true consultation and the true input of the communities so affected. Had we had the philosophy of Bill 12 in place first, Madam Chair and members of the committee, I put it to you that that would have been a much more acceptable solution for the delivery of social services and other services here in northern Ontario.
There are a number of us who have a concern, our concern being that this is the thin edge of the wedge for regional government. We have been very fortunate and very lucky here in northern Ontario in that we've escaped this so-called solution that happened in some parts of southern Ontario. We have had a form of one-tier government that has worked very effectively for us in the north. It worked here because we are different, because our distances are great, because the needs of our citizens are slightly different. Over the years we've developed very effective mechanisms for delivering the services that our citizens want and require.
We believed that area services boards would continue in that tradition, would allow us to have the local choice, the local flexibility. The imposition of the DSSABs, which has already happened, has taken that away. We need to alert you, and if you haven't already heard as members of the committee, you will hear from northerners as you move across this greatest part of the province in terms of area. You will hear anger, discontent and disquietude about the action that was taken in imposing DSSABs. It becomes then very difficult once the government has made those decisions to undo those threads and to take advantage of the flexibility, to take advantage of the local decision-making that is promised in Bill 12.
We fully recognize as northerners the difficulty you faced as a government in trying to move forward on all fronts at once but we did urge you, and unfortunately it wasn't heard by those of you here in the north, we urged you to wait, to put Bill 12 in place first. Let us in the north make our own decisions. I suggest to you that unfortunately we now have a bit of a difficult road ahead.
With those comments as a northern mayor, I just suggest to you that we are willing to work to ensure that the flexibility and the local decision-making promised in Bill 12 occurs. We are willing to do everything we can to ensure that the bill meets our needs here in the north and that you truly do, Madam Chair and members of the committee, hear us about not imposing overly strict principles when it comes to ministerial approval and that you do not rely on regulations as the methodology for seeing that Bill 12 works.
Mr Gravelle: Good morning, Mr Power, and welcome. It's always interesting in terms of your two hats -- at least two hats -- as president of AMO and mayor of the fine community of Geraldton. The question I want to ask is: You made it very clear, and strongly so, about the importance of local decision-making, about how communities have different needs and they express them.
Tell me how you think the area services board model which is, in essence, a form of regional government -- you described it as the thin edge of the wedge. I think it's more than that frankly, but I would like to hear your thoughts on it. It seems to me that ultimately what an area services board will be in not allowing the amount of local decision-making -- that it won't be there because it'll be another level of government that will be making decisions in a variety of areas in delivery of services. If you can respond to that because I'm not sure that I still see the possibility of local decision-making having its impact if these boards are put in place.
Mr Power: In terms of the bill, it's very clear that the local communities must decide whether they wish to take advantage of it. There's a sunset clause within the bill. Local decision-making is there. If municipal authorities, the councils of various municipalities in their wisdom choose to enter into an arrangement with an area services board, then, on behalf of their citizens, that's their choice. Some of us may not agree with the choice that they make, but that is their choice on behalf of their citizens. That is one of the essences of the bill that we have to support in the sense that the choice is there.
A concern was as a local -- and AMO supports that idea of local choice. We've supported it all along. We have said continuously that one size does not fit all and that governments need to be able to allow solutions with different elements to occur in different parts of the province -- if communities coming together decide that they believe they can deliver services to their constituents in a more appropriate fashion through an area services board and they choose to enter into such an arrangement, that really should be their choice. The elements of it are there. I think what I was indicating was that, unfortunately, the imposition of DSAABs really weakened the philosophy of choice that was presented with Bill 12.
Mr Pouliot: Thank you, Your Worship, Mayor Power. Congratulations on your second term as the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario which represents, I trust, some 93%, 95% of the overall electorate in the province. That's commendable indeed. Then you switch hats and talk to us about your bread and butter, your soul, your heart, which is the town of Geraldton. That's where I wish to focus, if you will with me.
By way of a question, I have a short prelude. I was in Nakina last Sunday and people were talking about Greenstone. It could have been Angelica, Beardmore, Longlac, Geraldton; it's the same. It's not so much a reluctance, it's the ability to be asked, to be consulted, to decide yourself about your future, not to have someone say, "You must pay for this" or "not pay for that."
Very candidly, if the people, and that's only speculation, were asked in the unorganized territories if they were in favour of Bill 12 -- because it is their affair; this is what they will have to live with when Mike and the gang is finished with them; they'll be asked to live with that -- how would they voice -- because it is, again, their affair, their circumstance -- "Do you wish to stay the same? Do you wish to go on Bill 12?" If there were a referendum, how do you think people would vote?
Mr Power: As you know very well, Mr Pouliot, I don't represent an unorganized area; I represent an organized area. As such, I can echo the comments that many of my northern colleagues have echoed over the years, that we believe everybody should pay for the services they receive. For a long period of time, as you well know, the unorganized representatives have not, in the view of the organized municipalities, paid their fair share.
May I give you a personal example? My camp -- as you know, we call cottages up here in the north a camp -- is exactly 12 minutes from the municipality I have the pleasure of representing. It's there because I can access all the services that exist within that municipality. My camp happens to be on an acre of land on the lake. It's a three-bedroom made by Lindal Cedar Homes and I pay $21 a year total in taxes. I don't think that's fair or reasonable because I receive services in that area of more than $21 a year. So I can say to you what the elected representatives of organized municipalities in northern Ontario have been saying for a long time.
Now, if I may put on the other hat again -- as you know, I wear many hats -- as a resident of the unorganized, if you came to me and asked me: "Sir, you have never paid. Are you willing to pay?" I'm going to say: "Hey, are you kidding? Why would I willingly agree to pay?" I think that's where you were driving your question. We have to look at the element of fairness. The people who live in organized communities expect that element of fairness.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, Mr President and Mr Mayor, for your presentation this morning. The first presentation we had this morning was from the chamber of commerce representatives, the president and the vice-president. Their concern with the bill was that it was, as was previously discussed here, another level of government. Their suggestion was that the ability already existed for municipalities in the north and elsewhere in the province, through annexations, boundary adjustments, amalgamations and so forth, to deal with this area service delivery model. You didn't need permissive legislation to create another level of government.
Could you explain to me why you would suggest that this is not another level of government and that this is a way of dealing with this issue of what municipalities in the north have been telling the government and myself personally as we've talked to them, that we need to have a way of delivering services other than amalgamating and becoming one municipality, because there are a lot of downsides to doing that. Could you tell me why you think Bill 12 will solve that problem or why it's better than the amalgamation process?
Mr Power: It's better than the amalgamation process because it provides the choice, the local option and the local flexibility. I didn't say it wasn't another level of government. I happen to believe, as a northerner, that it is and could be another level of government. It creates a special-purpose body that is not elected. It may be made up of councillors but they are not elected directly to that board to put citizens' views forward. But it does allow the unorganized communities to remain with their distinctiveness and remain essentially as they are. It provides the opportunity for them to pay for the services they now receive and are going to continue to receive in our province but it doesn't insist that they become part of a larger community or a larger land mass.
Amalgamations and annexations in the north have been very difficult because of the deep pockets of some of the private companies. I don't think it's any secret that I come from a municipality called Greenstone that has attempted to amalgamate. It's now before the courts because of the interference, the interjection of objections from a very large corporation, namely, TransCanada PipeLines, to whose advantage it is to delay it as long as possible in the interests of their shareholders so that instead of paying taxes to the municipality, they can pay dividends to their shareholders. We all understand that.
Mr Bill Pilot: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, Madam Chair. I'm Bill Pilot and I'm the chairman of the Northern Light Lake Roads Board. Our presentation this morning is to you on behalf of the Northern Light Lake Roads Board and our ratepayers to express our concerns and opinions on the Northern Services Improvement Act. I'm going to take you on a bit of a walkabout and then we'll have a short history lesson, because geography and history are two important things with respect to our particular case.
Our local roads board is located at the terminus of highway 588, approximately 80 kilometres southwest of the city of Thunder Bay. We maintain approximately 60 kilometres of local roads which afford access to hundreds of lakes and uncounted rivers and streams within over 730 square kilometres of our local roads board territory. Included within our area is a provincial park reserve and a significant percentage of the Lakehead forest. We have 225 private properties with just over 400 ratepayers in our area, but our board is almost exclusively seasonal, with only two year-round residents. Over 98% of the area we provide access to is crown land.
Using Ministry of Transportation traffic studies and extensive local knowledge, it has been determined that our ratepayers are a minority user group even though we are the only ones contributing directly through taxes to the maintenance of the local roads. It's further important to note that less than 20% of our ratepayers have direct access from our local roads to our properties. Over 80% of our ratepayers not only have to pay taxes to maintain the local roads that the general population, tourists, hunters, anglers and the woodlands industries use for free, but also have had to build and maintain, at their own personal expense, access roads to our own properties. Essentially, the road is a road to the area, not to our camps.
Our local roads board was initiated in May 1995 after it became apparent through lengthy negotiations with the Ministry of Natural Resources and three ministers of the previous government that the government of the day was no longer prepared to maintain the existing forest access roads in our area, much less live up to their written promise to upgrade the Northern Light Lake Road to highway standards and have it become part of Highway 588. This decision was taken in spite of the fact that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars had already been spent on upgrades of the Northern Light Lake Road to MTO highway standards.
Our ratepayers realized that they had to take the initiative, even though we were, as mentioned earlier, the minority user group. They voted overwhelmingly, 85%, in favour of forming our local roads board and became the only group paying directly for the maintenance and upgrades of our roads. As well, an existing roads board, the North West Arrow Lake Roads Board, voted in 1995 to dissolve their roads board and amalgamate with the newly established Northern Light Lake Roads Board even though they were under no obligation to do so and under the full understanding that this would result in an increase in taxes paid.
All these actions were initiated before the current government was even elected and its current policies put into place. Our ratepayers in an unincorporated area believed that everyone should pay their fair share and amalgamations that made sense should only be undertaken after a true democratic vote was held. Our decisions to form and amalgamate were based on assurances given to us by the various ministries and the ministers involved that the current cost-sharing levels would remain in place and that a change in legislation would be required to revise it.
When we examined the percentage that our ratepayers used the roads and the 1995 funding level of two to one, it seemed a fair and reasonable split. Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act, changed that in 1996. Cost-sharing levels were no longer guaranteed by legislation. The levels were in fact reduced to one to one arbitrarily by the Minister of Transportation immediately thereafter.
Our local roads board expressed our concern to this change in a letter to the Honourable Al Palladini, the Minister of Transportation at the time, and identified that our ratepayers would now be paying more than their fair share. We were reassured, in a letter dated August 26, 1996 from Mr Palladini that his ministry, along with several others, was examining different alternatives to ensure that local roads boards are provided more autonomy and responsibilities to ensure that they are able to manage their affairs and have the flexibility to adjust to changes.
The proposed legislation, the Northern Services Improvement Act, does not meet the objectives outlined in Mr Palladini's response to our LRB, but rather will, in our board's case, result in increased taxes and potentially less services, something contrary to what the title of the legislation suggests. The legislation, if not properly amended, will further increase the unfair tax burden on our ratepayers by over 200% for roads alone.
With the stated objective of the elimination of the Local Roads Board Act and the associated provincial credits and allowances for crown land, our ratepayers will now be required to pay 100% of the maintenance and upgrades of our Northern Light Lake Roads Board roads. The tens of thousands of hunters, anglers, tourists, recreational users, large resource industries and small woodlands operators will get to use our roads for free, while the property owners in the area will shoulder the entire tax burden.
One wouldn't expect the city of Barrie to pay the entire cost of Highway 400 end to end, merely because they are the largest and most easily identifiable municipality on the route, and one should not expect our ratepayers to pay 100% of the roads in our area either. Like the city of Barrie we, although perhaps an important player, are minority users. The goal of the proposed legislation, to allow residents of unincorporated communities to share in the costs of providing local services to which they have access, will now have been reversed. Our property owners in our unincorporated territory will now be providing free services to other users from outside our local roads board area.
We are also concerned that the proposed legislation will decrease the level of democracy for our ratepayers and decrease accountability of officials. All ratepayers today have the chance to provide direct and face-to-face input with respect to how roads are maintained and how moneys are spent. Our concern is that the proposed legislation will result in very large roads departments and we will see ongoing fiascos repeated, like Highway 588 this year where safety was compromised and numerous cases of damage to vehicles occurred.
Compare this to today, where not only do all ratepayers get to vote for their representatives but also get to vote directly on levels of taxation through minimum tax levels and can pass resolutions determining which roads are maintained and what levels they will be maintained at. The trustees and the MTO have the ultimate responsibility for this latter point, but rest assured the voters' wishes are given very serious consideration.
The proposed legislation will also change how taxes are assessed. Our ratepayers have already democratically decided through a vote at an annual meeting to set the minimum tax at a certain level so that practically all pay the minimum tax or close to it. Essentially, everyone pays the same amount. The new legislation will very likely eliminate this and we will now pay based on our assessments, something that our ratepayers have already experienced and rejected as unfair.
Local roads boards and the existing legislation should be allowed to stand unchanged where no significant need for core services is provided or warranted. Perhaps the only change that should be made is that the level of funding previously provided and written into legislation should be re-established so that our and other roads boards get their fair and reasonable funding guaranteed, rather than being provided or changed at the minister's whim.
The proposed legislation will also require our ratepayers to pay taxes for Ontario Works, child care, public health, social housing, schools, homes for the aged, land ambulance service and possibly taxes for economic development, airports, land use planning -- it goes on and on.
With virtually no year-round residents, our ratepayers will be forced to pay for many core and additional services that are not used and likely never will be used in our area. Our roads board and our ratepayers believe that everyone should pay their fair share and we adopted and implemented this philosophy before the current government made it their platform under the Common Sense Revolution banner. We do not, however, believe that we should be obligated to pay more than our fair share. The proposed legislation, unless amended, will do just that. We do not mind paying our fair share of roads, policing, ambulance and waste management, but to pay for welfare, child care, schools etc when they are not being used in our area and when we already pay for these at our primary residences is an injustice.
We suggest that the legislation be amended to provide a tax credit for those services not used or available in areas if already paid by the taxpayer at their permanent residence. This would ensure that all contribute and no resident be obligated to pay twice or more for the same service delivered only once.
If our governments can set up a sales tax rebate system for Americans visiting our country and advertise this at border crossings with full-scale billboard advertisements, the least it can do for its own citizens is set up a tax rebate system or, better yet, a tax reduction system to ensure we do not pay for the same service twice.
We also suggest that a mechanism be put in place to ensure that our residents pay only their fair share of the core and additional services used by the ratepayers in our area. With over 98% of our territory being crown land, tens of thousands of other users, large and small woodlands industries utilizing our area, it is not fair that only 225 properties pay 100% of the road maintenance, policing, ambulance etc. Again, the analogy of the city of Barrie and Highway 400 holds true: We don't expect Barrie to pay 100% of Highway 400, so don't expect us to pay 100% of these core and additional services either.
The Local Roads Boards Act and credits from the MTO at 1995 levels and allowance for crown lands was fair and reasonable when we undertook to form our roads board and still is the fairest and simplest mechanism that exists today. We strongly suggest that if the government is truly serious about ensuring that local services be provided in an efficient, cost-effective and fair manner, it preserve the Local Roads Boards Act and maintain and support the municipal section of the MTO. The municipal section has done an excellent job in the past and has the expertise and skills already developed to ensure the economies of scale and the delivery of safe roads meeting provincial standards at a reasonable cost. Rather than cutting back the municipal section and LRBs, we strongly suggest that the provincial government lobby the federal government to immediately start investing the billions of dollars collected from fuel taxes back into roads rather than putting them into general coffers.
Of course, it almost goes without saying that the Ontario government should do the same. We pay for our roads and associated services every time we pull up at the pumps but very little of what is collected is put back into the roads system. Ontario should be demanding that we receive our fair share rather than passing the costs on to local governments.
In summary, we believe and support the philosophy of fair and equitable taxation for all but it has to be truly fair. We are convinced that the proposed legislation, as drafted, will result in very substantial increases in taxes with no service improvements for our ratepayers. We ask that the government revise or make allowances for the points we have raised to ensure that in your drive to right some past wrongs you do not create a number of new wrongs for our taxpayers. If the changes we suggest are not made, we fear the proposed legislation will legalize the theft from our taxpayers' pockets to help pay for the government's political agenda associated with reducing Ontario taxes by passing the burden on to local governments.
I did some reminiscing while I listening to your presentation. I was the Minister of Transportation and Minister of Northern Development and Mines when you had the 2-to-1 ratio. I guess I can -- it's my job too with the opposition to impute motives. You're saying that with Bill 12, as is, the people you represent will have difficulties making ends meet, and in some cases for roads alone their taxes will double. Are you fairly secure in saying this morning that the people you represent would definitely oppose what is being proposed if there are no amendments or changes?
Mr Pilot: I believe they would perhaps be a little more vocal and perhaps even a little more opposed than I am. However, their actions do speak for themselves. They have already examined the roads boards system. They have bought into it, so I believe common sense would prevail. I think our ratepayers are prepared to pay their fair share, but nothing more.
Now, with respect to it being a hardship, any time you increase the level of taxes by 200% to 300% just for roads -- and in fact it may be seven or eight times as much -- yes, that's going to be a hardship. Our ratepayers, it should be mentioned, invest in Ontario and invest in Canada. We have cottages here. We do not take our money to the States or Cuba or elsewhere. We invest here; we should be supported here. We should not have all these impediments and roadblocks thrown our way for investing back in Canada.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, sir, for making your presentation. I appreciate the issue of the roads funding as it presently exists, and the MTO funding was 2 to 1 and is now 1 to 1 on the local roads boards. I want to point out for your information and for those gathered here that the issue of proportion -- what the province funds and what is funded by the local tax base -- is under discussion now as to how that should be set. Bill 12 does not in fact deal with actual funding levels as opposed to providing the mechanism of municipal delivery of services. I just wanted to point out that issue is still being debated and being investigated and I would encourage you to make sure that your association is heard in those deliberations as to how that should be.
On the overall picture of fairness and equitable taxation, the presenter previous to you was a representative from one of the organized municipalities in northern Ontario who used his own camp as an example and suggested that he felt it wasn't based on fairness that his camp should pay $21 in taxes when if it was 20 minutes removed in the other direction and into the organized he would have to pay considerably more. Your presentation deals considerably with that in suggesting that they're seasonal users of these. In fact, a lot of these municipal services are not required or desired by the people living in seasonal residences. When we look across the board at all of Ontario, and again not one solution fitting all, we have a lot of areas in the province where seasonal structures are being occupied in organized municipalities where they are obligated to pay full taxation the same as everyone else, whether they live there all year or whether they don't.
Mr Pilot: Personally, I don't support the concept of paying based on assessments. It's not necessarily a fair way. I believe you should pay for the services you receive. If you can recall, in part of the presentation we dealt with that. We made a suggestion that if you receive the services, you should pay for them. That's fair and reasonable. If you don't receive them, you shouldn't pay for them, or if you receive the same services -- in our particular case, the services we receive are based out of the city of Thunder Bay, primarily the core services. Why should we pay here in the city of Thunder Bay for them and then pay back at our cottages?
Mr Miclash: Bill, I think you've made some points very clear here. You've indicated some areas where we're certainly going to have to take a look at amendments and you given us some excellent information. I like your analogy of the primary resident compared to the American visitor where the American visitor can get the tax rebate whereas you say the primary resident cannot.
As well, in terms of the fuel taxes, I must say that in my 11 years in elected life I don't think I've heard anything more on any issue than the fuel taxes. I'm surprised you didn't mention the reintroduction of the $37 registration fee for northern drivers, which actually recognized that at one point, the $37 that we didn't have to pay.
But going back to your comments on the crown land, as you indicated, 98% of the area in the district that you're talking about is crown land. What kind of recommendations can you make to, say, make it more fair for your residents versus the government in terms of making up for all of those areas in that crown land?
Mr Pilot: That's a tough one to answer in such a short period of time. I think I've only got a few minutes here, at the very most, left. I'd be prepared to sit down and think about and discuss it with the ratepayers, which is the only fair way of doing it, and let them come up with a proposal. They're quite interested, I'm sure, and we'd be happy to get back to the committee. I don't have one right now, though.
Good morning, Madam Chair and committee members. We appreciate the opportunity to address the committee. My name is Ingrid Parkes and I am the president of ALPHA, and I might add newly elected, so I'm really new at this. ALPHA is a provincial association which represents boards of health and public health units of Ontario.
In January 1997, the provincial government made a decision that responsibility for public health services would be transferred to municipalities. We are now facing yet more changes to public health through Bill 12, the Northern Services Improvement Act.
Public health programs and services have been demonstrated to promote general health status and to prevent disease and injuries. Public health programs and services are a critical component of our health care system, functioning to prevent rather than treat problems. In this regard, they reduce overall health care costs. Our public health care system must be able to maintain public health standards across the province in order that it remain an integral part of Ontario's health care system.
The services improvement act has modified the Health Protection and Promotion Act such that "additional entities such as county councils may become boards of health" and "the administration and business affairs of the board need not be under the direction of the medical officer." Bill 12 will go one step further, allowing a three-year window during which plans for ASBs may be submitted and further requiring that "core services which must be provided or ensured by an ASB are: public health, homes for the aged, ambulance as well as Ontario Works, child care and social housing." Clearly, the planning services for municipal service consolidation in northern Ontario intend for public health services to become part of municipal service restructuring.
Municipal service restructuring in northern Ontario may bring many gains to communities, but is fraught with many geopolitical and boundary questions. Multiple municipal structures are involved and affected by this reorganization. The current planning only includes public health as a passive participant, vulnerable to the driving forces that have come to the front as a result of municipal-provincial disentanglement. Somehow, somewhere, attention must be paid to preserving, and indeed improving, public health services as we go through changes.
Current DSSAB legislation will result in 50 agencies. Area services boards could increase the number of boards of health from the current number of eight to about 15 or 20 in the north. Geographical boundaries of health units of the day will be altered under this bill to have multiple ASBs and areas where no municipal or provincially recognized structure exists. This is also especially true in the north for our first nations population as well. For the health and wellness of our population we require tight provincial coordination, monitoring and affiliation since diseases do not respect boundaries.
In a time of shrinking resources and staffing, reform of local public health services must ensure that opportunities for linkages and sharing of expertise and "best practices" between public health units are enhanced and simplified.
Diseases and issues of public health importance do not respect boundaries, as I've said before. Responses to outbreaks such as meningococcal meningitis and strategies to protect people against second-hand smoke exposure in public places have increasingly been noted to be most successful if there is utilization of best practices and continuity in approaches.
While the mandatory health programs and services guidelines provides a framework for required activities, public health issues are often now of such complexity that public health units have need now, more than ever, to be not only internally strong but also strongly linked to other public health agencies.
Restructuring policy, which allows fragmentation of the system into many small health units, will increase the difficulties in maintenance of these linkages and development of best practices in public health. The largest of Ontario's public health units can mobilize more resources internally than smaller health units that are typical of the north. There are economies of scale in terms of valuable linkages between health units that may be at risk if health units are to be fragmented in order to make them fit DSSAB borders.
Ontarians expect continuity and comprehensiveness of public health programming across the province. Barriers to this must not be created. Reform of public health governance must ensure that there is a balance between the driving forces of efficiency and quality.
The current system of independent boards of health has provided for decades a process whereby communities have been able to ensure that their public health services are of the highest quality. The combination of strong provincial funding with local governance produced a situation whereby boards of health provided governance with a strong emphasis on quality and comprehensiveness. The new plans for increasing integration of public health services into municipal services management and governance in the face of majority municipal funding will tilt the balance of values.
Moreover, the shift towards one area governing multiple services will mean that there is distinct loss of community input to public health services. Public health may become just one of the many items to be dealt with by area service boards. Relegated to a lesser status, isolated from the rest of the health system, comprehensive and important public health issues may take a back seat to local economic and political factors and values.
While much attention has been given to dissemination and consultation with municipalities on DSSABs and ASBs, no consultation has yet been done with public health groups, experts or communities. Will this government listen only to the voices of those who would say, "He who pays gets to say"? As with public service governance, the opinions and voices of those who are most concerned with economy must be balanced by the voices and opinions of those who wish to see communities' health both protected and indeed promoted.
In conclusion, ALPHA feels that the provincial government should consider the implications of passage of this bill and the transfer of public health services to DSSABs and/or ASBs. The public health status of the people of northern Ontario could be put in jeopardy if the DSSABs/ASBs are unable to fulfil their new, extensive responsibilities, particularly where in northern Ontario many programs and services are offered only by public health units. I would really like to stress that, that we don't have the luxury of the larger centres. Transfer of these responsibilities to DSSABs/ASBs would leave many health needs unmet and cause even greater cost burdens for the health care system when the lack of prevention becomes illness.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you for the presentation this morning. First of all I wanted to deal with an issue that was brought forward this morning by a medical officer of health, the issue of looking at the permissiveness of the legislation before us. There seems to be an implication that this may in fact increase the number of boards of health, as opposed to decreasing the amount of government and bureaucracy in the system to try and find efficiencies. The suggestion is that presently the boards of health are aligned with the DSAAB, which are larger geographic areas, and if municipalities or local governments have the ability to bring it smaller, that would automatically reduce the size and increase the number of boards of health.
My question would be, why is it you make the assumption that municipalities, or the people making that decision, would decide that more would be better? The rest of your presentation deals with that you have concerns that the local government will in fact cut the level of public health to accommodate finding funding for roads. Yet, in the suggestion in creating more boards of health, you're suggesting that they would arbitrarily downsize the area that the boards of health cover and create more of them. I find it hard to understand the logic in that and I wonder if you could explain that to me.
Ms Parkes: I guess I could use Northwestern board of health as an example. I am the chair of that board of health. There is one area that the board of health covers two geographical areas: the Rainy River and the Kenora districts. If in fact DSAABs come into place, and area service boards, and they're each going to go for a board of health, the one board of health then becomes two boards of health. That's one area where we're saying it would multiply and then from there become weaker, because your linkages are --
Mr Hardeman: But don't you see the possibility where a municipality would create an area service board, requiring one of the core services it would have to provide was public health, that they would find the most efficient way of doing that would be to strike a deal with the present participants in the larger board to say, "We would like to share that service with you," rather than setting up a complete new board of health. In the proposal for an area service board, there would seem to be nothing that I read in the legislation that would drive them to try to create a new board of health when the ability is there to share those services with the present participants. I don't understand why we would think that they would, in trying to find efficiencies, would try and downsize and create more bureaucracy to run the public health function in that area.
Ms Parkes: I would hope that you're right. I'm only speaking about Northwestern only because I know that better, but there have been no conversations whatsoever, or invitations even, for board members to come and to speak to either of those two areas. I know that we asked, I would say probably at least a year ago, to be invited to discuss with them the possibilities of remaining rather than separating into two. So that's why I think that we should probably be fairly safe in assuming that they're going to go the double route rather than remaining where they are.
Mr Hardeman: There seems to be an implication in your presentation that the local people are not or would not be as concerned about the public health of their citizens as the boards of health, and I suppose in conjunction with that the province, which is responsible for the boards of health presently. They would have more concern with the health and safety of their local citizens. I find it hard to understand why one would take the analogy that local government would not feel as concerned about the public health of their citizens as someone from Queen's Park or someone from the boards of health.
Ms Parkes: If you're going to be going into a DSSAB or an ASB, you've got one group of people that is going to be responsible for many more areas and therefore not perhaps having the expertise, as we've alluded to before. I'm not saying that they don't think it's important, but we all know, as politicians, the group that screams the loudest usually get what it asks for.
Mr Miclash: Thank you very much for travelling from Kenora to be with us here this morning. I think we'll be hearing a little bit more from Dr Sarsfield when we're in Kenora later on this afternoon in terms of lack of consultation. It's certainly something that you've indicated and you've mentioned a good number of times, as we've heard from him as well. We seem to be left out of the loop when it comes to actually formulating legislation in Queen's Park, and the lack of consultation with the health units and the boards have certainly amplified that.
We received a written brief from the Sudbury Health Unit. They indicated that they have difficulty understanding why public health is considered as a core service in this act. I'm just wondering if you have that same difficulty. Maybe you could elaborate on that.
Ms Parkes: Again, I apologize for being the only one here. I'm new to this, but yes, I think our sense is that public health should be a provincial responsibility, period, and it should be equal. It should be no more difficult. I think if we really looked deeply, we would see that the money we spend on public health saves the health care system in the long run. It's like if you put the oil in the motor of the car, it's going to save buying a new motor, but if you don't, you're replacing much more. I don't know if that answers it.
Mr Gravelle: I think that very much makes the point, Ms Parkes. The fact is, and it just can't be emphasized enough, that public health should be a provincial responsibility. You've made the point strongly, and Dr Williams has. I think everybody in the public health field recognizes that it's so important. It doesn't respect municipal boundaries. I take it if you had one thing you could ask this government to do, it would be to once again have public health funded as a provincial responsibility.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much for making the presentation. On the second last page you're saying that concerning Bill 12 there has been no public consultation with your health group or experts or the communities involved in that area. You've also, in answer to the Liberal member, said that you believe it should be a provincial responsibility as far as public health is concerned.
I'm looking at this bill and also the presenters who are coming forward. Nobody is in support of Bill 12 as far as the unorganized areas are concerned. I get the impression that it's the almighty dollar that counts: Run it as a business, cut as much money out of all of these areas as you can, whether it be public health, whether it be provincial roads. Let them deteriorate to the point where, in the case of public health, people are going to be sick. Who takes responsibility then? It's going to be a lot more expensive afterwards treating the illness than it is preventing it before.
I agree with you that a lot of the areas -- public health is one of them but a lot of the other services that are being dumped. The cost that is being dumped on to the unorganized areas should be a provincial responsibility because thousands and thousands of people -- I'll use roads, for example -- are travelling through, and if the public health is at risk because of trying to save dollars, who's the winner in the long run? Is it the Conservatives in Toronto at the expense of northern Ontario? If you want to comment on that --
Ms Parkes: I agree with you. I guess I hate to use roads as an example because sometimes those potholes are really obvious when you hit it every time. You know it's there and you always forget that it's there and so you hit it.
The unfortunate and perhaps the sad part about public health is that we don't really realize it's there. We send our children to school and we know they get the immunizations but we don't think that they've got it. If little Johnny beside us, for whatever reason, didn't get it and he gets really sick, then we realize that somebody was there and they did that for us.
I suppose I should go further than just a provincial responsibility. I think the federal government also has a responsibility, especially in the north with our first nations population, and we should begin that by getting together to talk about those issues. We all live in this province and I think we should all have some sort of responsibility to that. I have been trying to say that and I'm just a little person, but I believe that. I guess I don't think that it's only -- and I've said in here that I think it should be a federal responsibility as well. Those people come and they utilize our communities, and I'm glad that they do that, but I think --
Mr Rene Larson: Thank you, Madam Chair. I thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee today. The purposes of my presentation are to bring you the perspective from the bottom up and to make some suggestions to improve the bill. I am one of those creatures called an "inhabitant" under this bill and I am chair of the local services board of Lappe and area, whose boundaries are shown on the map that I have attached.
To give you some perspective on where we are, this is a map of the city of Thunder Bay. Shuniah is on my left and Oliver, Paipoonge and Conmee are on the right, but the majority of the population sits in the city of Thunder Bay, which is just south of the area that is unorganized. It's an anomaly. I think it's one of the largest concentrations of population in Ontario that's adjacent to an organized municipality.
The Lappe local services board is part of two unorganized townships, Gorham and Ware. It was created in 1982 and provides fire protection and recreation services. In the approximate midpoint of the area that we serve is a rural public school with grades 1 to 8 and a student population of about 388 in 1997. As part of a Canada-Ontario infrastructure program an addition was built to the school where a small office is kept and meetings are held. The Lappe local services board has its own firehall adjacent to the school and services households outside its boundaries through arrangements with the Ontario fire marshal's office.
No municipal reorganization has occurred in our area. There are four unorganized townships, with both permanent and seasonal households. Gorham has approximately 904 households, Jacques 348, Ware 700, Fowler 500. That totals almost 2,500 households. Population is estimated to be between 3,600 and 7,400.
Some people have speculated that no organized municipality wishes to take over a territory like this that might actually outpopulate it. No organized municipality is currently pressed by financial reasons to look at taking over this area, so there's absolutely no municipal organization or reorganization going on.
The closest municipality, as I have mentioned, is the city of Thunder Bay, which is south and has a population of about 115,000 and 46,000 households. If they come and take over our area, it's David and Goliath there, and Goliath will be taking over.
The other nearby municipalities are the township of Shuniah in the east, which has 2,200 people and 2,000 households, and then the new township of Oliver Paipoonge to the west, a population of 5,900 and 1,900 households, and another smaller township called Conmee -- I believe Reeve Nelson was here earlier -- 700 population, 262 households. You can see the unorganized territory is sort of an island unto itself at the moment.
The Lappe local services board welcomes the opportunities to restructure that are contained in Bill 12. With an expansion of boundaries, the services board can provide fire protection, recreation and road services in a much larger area than at present. That should lead to greater efficiencies. As I mentioned to you, there are four local roads boards immediately around our services area, and if we expand the boundaries of the services area and put those roads boards together, we will create some efficiencies.
I recommend to the committee that section 13 of the present act be amended to allow for payment of remuneration to members of local services boards, and if there is any fear of the remuneration being set too high, then I would suggest that the minister be allowed to set maximum compensation levels by regulation or order. Obviously the responsibilities and the time to carry them out will be much greater for expanded areas and services, and quite frankly, the depth of volunteerism is not out there at present.
Our board comprises five members, and we have had a vacancy for the last eight months and have advertised consistently on a monthly basis to try to elect someone. If some poor inhabitant shows up at our board, he or she is going to get elected, but we can't find them. I don't know if compensation is an answer to that or not, but obviously, if you're getting greater responsibility, there might be some nominal compensation that should be offered.
In my opinion, the terms of office under section 19 should be longer than one year, perhaps matching the three-year terms of organized municipalities. Again, the minister could be given the discretion of ordering longer terms of office than the current one year. There needs to be some planning in these areas, and the terms of office should give the members who are elected an opportunity to do that planning.
I should mention I listened to the gentleman I think two presentations ago who said there should be a difference between seasonal and permanent, and I cannot agree with that person. We provide fire protection year-round; there are garbage services in the area year-round; there are police services required year-round. Whether people are in their cottages or not, they expect those services, and I believe they should be paid for by the people according to their assessments. I would mention that to you as a point, that assessment is the fairest way to have people pay for services, and the services they require do not solely depend on whether they are there year-round or not. Our fire protection team will service a seasonal cottage as well as a permanent residence and without discrimination.
With respect to the area services boards under the proposed part II of the act, it is my respectful submission that the additional services under section 41(2) which may be provided by an area services board should include all the powers of a local services board in the schedule to the act, namely, water supply, fire protection, garbage collection, sewage, street or area lighting and recreation.
The reason for that is that we need flexibility in this legislation to service the different areas of the province, and there is no one solution that works, so if there are powers that can be exercised by an area services board instead of a local services board and that would create savings and efficiencies, then perhaps the area services board should have that ability. Right now the act gives roads -- roads obviously could be dealt with by a local roads board, a local services board and an area services board under the proposed legislation, so why just roads? Why not expand the basket of services that are potentially capable of being looked after by the area services boards? I point out it would provide for maximum flexibility in allocating the powers between a local services board and an area services board and even a local roads board and would provide for the provision of services where there may be a collapse of local services boards for a lack of volunteers, as an example. It may be more efficient for the area services board to contract for services across a larger area. In any event, the minister should have maximum flexibility in setting up both local services boards and area services boards.
The taxation model 2 set up in section 49 and the following sections of the proposed act is an improvement over the current method of funding of local services boards under the provincial land tax. Specifically, section 56 will provide improved cash flow to local services boards where the area services board levies and makes payments on a quarterly basis. Right now a local services board really doesn't know when the money is going to come from the provincial treasury for the taxes that have been assessed on its behalf, and there are some times when we need to borrow where an improved cash flow would certainly eliminate any of those requirements.
The one concern I have is the representation of unorganized territories on the area services board. If, for instance, in Thunder Bay district there is one person elected to represent the unorganized territory in the whole district, that person will have a very difficult time consulting with the electorate. It's a vast territory. For that reason, I am actively examining the possibility of creating a new municipality in the area that I currently serve, if the Minister of Municipal Affairs will entertain this idea, in order to have better representation, so perhaps in a backhanded way the area services board representation might force people to recognize that it's better to be an organized municipality if there's a sufficient density of population, as in my services area, to proceed in that direction. Thank you.
Mr Gravelle: Good morning, Mr Larson. You were talking in terms of the four townships that make up the Local Services Board of Lappe and Area. I just want to be clear: Are you thinking in terms of those particular townships potentially comprising an area services board of their own? I don't think that's how the act is envisioned, but I wasn't sure.
Mr Larson: No. I see them having to participate in a district of Thunder Bay board, where they're going to be a very small part of a totally unorganized territory, so I think there's incentive to organize themselves.
Mr Gravelle: As you say, you're pursuing or looking at the possibility of becoming an organized municipality of your own. Can you tell us what kind of reaction you're getting to that? It seems to me that the direction of this government is to have fewer organized municipalities rather than the other way around. I'm just curious as to what response you're getting or where you're at.
Mr Larson: My current impression is that the minister might entertain the possibility. Earlier, when the whole new scenario was coming on, there was absolutely no way that we could be considered, but I think now that we haven't been absorbed by any organized municipality, we could make a reasonable argument that we might be able to do it on our own. One more municipality isn't going to make that much difference when the ministers reduce by over 200 the number in Ontario.
Mr Gravelle: If you were successful in moving in that direction, does it not concern you a little bit that -- let's say you were able to form a municipality of your own -- you would then have this other level of government, which is in essence what the area services boards end up being. In other words, you develop some control by having become a municipality and on the other hand give a little bit up in terms of the area services board. Does that concern you at all?
Mr Gravelle: Don't you think ultimately, though, that one of the directions we're going into in terms of the area services board is truly to reduce the number of municipalities? If you look at the end story of an area services board in terms of the responsibilities it takes on, I think one can make the argument that it makes municipalities in and of themselves less relevant because they'll be taking on potentially so many responsibilities, and it's really an effort by the government to reduce the number of municipalities in the province.
Mr Pouliot: It's a pleasure, Mr Larson. I'm quite impressed with the detailed map and I was wondering if a municipality would ask your office to provide them with something identical, what the costs would be, because a lot of pain and effort went into the preparing of the map.
Mr Larson, your presentation is perhaps a precursor to what's about to happen, and you conclude by saying that perhaps the time has come to look at putting them all together and forming one new municipality. Suppose, not in a best-case scenario, in fact quite the opposite, that because of the downloading, because of new responsibilities that taxpayers must pay for, the time comes when de facto you can no longer pay for them or you can barely pay for them and you say, "Well, why don't we block together." That's what I mean in saying "precursor." Maybe inevitably -- I don't want to impute motive to the government, but if you take on a lot of responsibilities and you have so few taxpayers, why not block together and have more people under the umbrella of one municipality? You're forced to do that and that's what I'm afraid will happen.
I say I'm afraid that will happen because I'm not convinced that people see a need. We get 4,000 calls per year in our constituency office -- some people get more; they have more people to serve -- and I'm not aware, and it's my job to be aware, of people saying, "We wish to come on with Bill 12," or "We wish to join the municipality next to us." In fact while listening, if you mention it, people will say: "No, no, I never thought of that. That's way down on the priority list. But now that you mention it, why would we? We're comfortable where we are. We don't wish to change." Then there's no ulterior motive; it's right in front of us. The government is downloading and the unorganized territories have been spared so far. So why shouldn't they pay for their piece of the road? Why shouldn't they pay instead of going to knock on the provincial government's door -- it's their money anyway -- and saying, "I want some of our money back to pay for it"? The government says: "No, no, we're going to sock it to the municipalities. Let them stand on their own two feet. Oh, what about unorganized territories? We forgot about them." This is a revolution, so when you're in a hurry you make mistakes, so they fell through the cracks. Bill 12 says, "You're not going to get away with it." It's as simple as that. If you cannot afford to do it, go and ask your neighbour, move in with your neighbour, form one municipality and then you'll best be able to afford it because you won't have two graders; you'll have one grader. It'll never get to your place, mind you. I think this is a cynical ploy. It's designed only for one purpose: to pick the pockets of the rural people.
Mr Hardeman: First of all, just a tongue-in-cheek comment. On page 2, I would say the township you referred to is either a misprint or it's a very lonely place, because you have an almost identical number of households and people. It seems everyone almost lives alone and that would be a rather lonely township.
I want to refer you to the comment you made that you're looking at the possibility of creating a municipality in order to deal with the representation on what in the future, if it's the wish of the surrounding area, could become an area services board. I notice from your figures that the unorganized area you're referring to now has a large population considerably disproportionate to the rest of the district. If you look at the governance model for an area services board, the fact that it's based on electing those people in the unorganized territory, is it not reasonable to assume that the representative on the area services board, even if there was only one, invariably would be elected in that area of the district because that's where the population is?
Having said that, do you see a need other than just for representation on an area services board to find a way to incorporate that area so you could provide services in a different way and taxation in a different way for the people you're presently responsible for? Is there more need for this incorporation than just to deal with representation on area services boards?
Mr Larson: The powers that are available to a municipality in terms of bylaws and the subjects that are covered under the Municipal Act I think are important if you're going to be governing. To a certain extent, I think you get to a point where the population is large enough that the act we have really doesn't cover the situations that we need to and they have to move on to a municipality rather than be limited to the powers and controls of the minister under this act.
Mr Harold Wilson: Good morning to the Vice-Chair, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Harold Wilson. I am the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Development Network. We are an association of community development practitioners and partners in northwestern Ontario. Our core membership consists of the economic development offices and community futures corporations serving the region, which extends from Manitouwadge to Kenora, Atikokan to Pickle Lake. Approximately half of the region's population of 250,000 is in Thunder Bay.
The focus of our members is community-based economic development, and there are several aspects of Bill 12 which could impact our communities' ability to address their development needs. I want to thank you for coming to the northwest and providing an opportunity for us to give comment.
Bill 12 mainly speaks to models of local governance. The purposes spelled out in section 36 are laudable. In our region, there will be some support for the proposed northern services boards, some opposition, some definite opportunities and some dismissal of opportunities. The legislation stresses flexibility and voluntary compliance. The minister has stated that area service boards are an optional tool. While a double-edged sword, this principle must be adhered to.
I say "double-edged" because our communities should not have major changes in governance imposed on them. At the same time, there are significant opportunities for co-operation that should, but will not be, pursued. This may be due to political, as opposed to financial, considerations. What if a central community in an area does not want to be part of the northern services board? This appears to be addressed in subclause 37(1)(b)(i). However, what does "the prescribed degree of support of the municipalities and local services boards and of the residents of the unorganized territory in the board area" mean? No definition has been provided.
Moreover, there is a concern with the voluntary period being three years. Will there be mandatory area services board boundaries after three years? The three-year window gives the impression that it is a short-term solution. We need a long-term approach.
We understand that the primary purpose is the consolidation of the delivery of core social and community health services, specifically Ontario Works, child care and social housing. In the near future local ambulance, public health and municipal homes for the aged will be phased in. This legislation might provide the tools for helping in the delivery of efficient local services, and we agree that economies of scale should be realized. Changes to delivery have long been requested and make sense.
But this legislation goes further. Delivery is one thing; paying for it is another. The proposed mechanism to pay for this consolidation will be direct taxing authority within the area services board to recover costs for the delivery of services.
This system, as spelled out in clause 38(1)(h), is basically an extension of the current municipal tax structure. However, the existing property-based municipal tax structure does not provide an adequate tax base for northern Ontario to meet their costs. This is because the north is resource-based rather than a property-, manufacturing- or population-based economy. This has resulted in the "dependency" on transfer payments and support. The base resource sector remains the engine of regional wealth and job creation. Much of our future rests with the development of our natural resources rent with a value-added component.
Northern Ontario is not self-sufficient or self-sustainable at the municipal level. The sparse population and distances between municipalities are a bigger issue in the northwest than in the northeast. As the share to companies and government has increased, the wealth from our resources, which fuels our communities, continues to be reduced within the region with less available for the services whose costs are increasing.
Current measures to support our economy are short-term and subject to cost-cutting measures. Thus, utilizing this system exclusively for the provision of services will, over time, not result in adequate delivery. Our current tax base is shrinking. Service or user fees are also inadequate as tools to fund municipalities and their services. If the only means in the future to fund these local services is by the local methods already in place, failure is inevitable. Increasing the tax base or reallocating the wealth generated in the area has yet to be addressed.
The Northwestern Ontario Development Network, in association with the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, produced last fall a Discussion Paper on the Rationale for a Resource Revenue Retention Mechanism for Northern Ontario. While preliminary, it is a concept that needs to be thoroughly discussed with provincial government. It is one method to address the shortcomings of the existing property board municipal tax structure in northern Ontario. We submitted it to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and the Ministry of Finance for information purposes and are awaiting the opportunity to discuss this proposal.
Another opportunity to broaden the tax base for our communities is in provincial approval of cottage lot development. NOMA completed its crown land acquisition study this April. Several municipalities are now in a position to proceed on the acquisition, having prepared the required development plans. This approach has long been advocated, but for years municipalities have been discouraged by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Support from the provincial government, from the minister to the district manager, for communities that are ready is needed.
Finally, additional core services are listed in subsection 41(2). The list of activities the northern services board could be responsible for includes services promoting economic development. The government has increasingly placed the responsibility for economic development at the municipal level. At the same time, support to ensure that this was undertaken in a formal, professional manner by our individual communities was withdrawn by the provincial government with the phasing out of the MEDA, the municipal economic development assistance program.
If a municipality did not have the tax base to support an economic development office, there was financial assistance. In the northwest, only Thunder Bay and Kenora have populations of over 10,000. An economic development office is all too often viewed as an expenditure. The fact that projects require nurturing, partnership-building, community involvement and advocacy to all three levels of government means that it is a long-term activity.
Return on investment often takes years, and while it is easy to show the benefits after a project is completed and the tax assessment has been enhanced, or in some cases stabilized, this is not automatic. It never has been. By empowering the area services board to take on economic development without providing guidance and support, it could become diluted and not support local ideas and initiatives.
A concern is raised if economic development becomes the responsibility of the northern Ontario services board such that the largest centres in the board's territory would receive a disproportionately high amount of resources, leaving the smaller centres without enough resources, effectively starving them.
These projects and opportunities could become the enhanced tax base we need. Without specific commitment from the province to support the promotion and effort required for effective community-based economic development, a tool to enhance the tax base will not be picked up. A commitment to consider alternatives to the municipal tax structure that currently exists must also be reviewed.
Thunder Bay this morning, then Kenora, and then Sault Ste Marie and Timmins tomorrow, two days and only four locations, and then they will do clause-by-clause. Then they will vote in the House, and you know how that goes, and then it will become law. They wanted this in place this past June, so they'll get it some time in October when they call third reading. It's very, very late. I hope they will, if not put it on the back burner, listen carefully to your presentation and others because people are saying that under article 37, clause, subclause, and then they go to 38 -- you can do so.
It's not being overly critical, but a lot of it needs to be redrafted. We're used to some amendments to a bill but in this case it's rather simple. It's not very complex in terms of legislation, yet when you listen to the presenters, they come up with some things that are so straightforward, like, "If you are to do this, wouldn't it make more sense to have a three-year election as opposed to an election each and every year?" It seems that you're always running for office. It's commonsensical. Some of the unorganized territories have more population than some small towns that are organized, yet they have a three-year mandate because they come under the Municipal Act.
Mr Wilson: I think the main change will probably be at tax time. I think, though, that one of the things we have advocated -- and in northeastern Ontario there were lots of opportunities for more efficient delivery of services. In one community where I was living I had three other municipal offices within five kilometres. Within that kind of radius we had four municipal offices each delivering Ontario Works and the rest of the social programs. There were efficiencies to be gained there. At the same time, there are unorganized territories that benefited. So I think having an opportunity to work on those deliveries is essential.
However, at the same time I think the core of the presentation is that if they're just going to use the existing municipal tax structure, it's inadequate now. If you extend that over even a sparser population, it won't do the job.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, Mr Wilson, for your presentation. First of all, in the general tone of the conversation, I want to assure you that the government recognizes that the tax base in northern Ontario is not at the same level as the tax base in southern Ontario. The community reinvestment fund was set up to make sure that the needs of northern Ontario were met as we continue on with the realignment of services between the municipal and provincial governments.
There are a couple of points in your presentation I wanted to comment on. One was on your question as it relates to the prescribed degree of support and that it doesn't mention what that would be. Though it's not set in legislation, it is to be set by regulation. In other areas, as it relates to restructuring municipal government in the province, it is based on the double or the triple majority.
In southern Ontario, where you have two-tier government, it requires the support of the majority of municipalities representing the majority of the population and the support of the upper tier. Of course, in northern Ontario where we have no two-tier, it is the vote of the majority of the municipalities, representing the majority of the population. I think it's understood that the regulation would likely be consistent with other regulations, that there would be that type of support required for setting up a board.
The other area is your comment, "The three-year window gives the impression that it is a short-term solution." I think the intent in the legislation is not to be a short-term solution but to provide the ability to set up the best possible cost-effective and efficient way of delivering these services, that all participants should get involved with that and get it done, at some point in time giving the assurance to all those who have participated that the process has been completed and they can get on now with delivering those services without having someone else coming up with another proposal that would put an area services board over top of the one that was already created, that there's some finality to the process. I think the intent in the legislation is that a three-year time frame or a three-year window would allow all the participants to look at the best possible options, and if they decided to partake, they would do that within that three-year period.
Last but not least, you mentioned the issue of economic development and some concern that it would be with the area services board. I guess from economic development that I've been involved with over the years, trying to put it over a larger area, to incorporate more communities in the area that you're trying to encourage industry to come to, is usually a benefit rather than a detriment. It would seem to me, if economic development is funded by local municipalities, that the broader the tax base you can put that on the more effective that economic development would likely be. I'd just like your comments on that.
Mr Wilson: If I can respond to those, the first one, the issue of the majority of the population supporting it, we're taking a look in some of our major centres. The majority of the population will be in the centre. The surrounding townships, the unorganized townships, will not be the majority. So that was one of the considerations, if that's also part of it.
On the second point, two parts to the answer, I guess. Every time in northern Ontario we hear a time line, it perks our ears up a little bit. One of the failings of the MEDA program, which I described before, municipal economic development assistance, was it was five years. In five years, most people are just getting their feet wet: Find out exactly what's going on for the first two, do the job in the third, and look for another job in the fourth and fifth because it might come crashing down. Programs and initiatives that have that kind of time line just perk our ears up.
You mentioned the community reinvestment fund. Again, that's not in perpetuity either. That's only probably for a couple of years, I understand. If it's going to be longer, that's one of the reasons we mentioned the resource revenue retention mechanism, because that would be long term. That would be in perpetuity so that the municipalities don't have to try to second-guess, when they're planning two or three years down the road, whether that funding will be in place.
The last part was about the area services board. I agree. If economic development was delivered by that, then great, and they could try to promote it. But that is a second level that these area services boards will consider, and again it's subject to funding decisions.
I've said this to a number of people. When a municipality or maybe an area services board is faced with some reductions and they take a look at a library, a recreation office and the economic development office and they're taking a look at where they're going to be able to cut, I think an area services board will do the same thing as a municipality and that one of the linchpins that can help to enhance the tax base might be the first one they go after.
Mr Miclash: Thank you very much, Harold. One of my questions was going to be around the community investment funds. As I think you point out, the two-year period is there out in front of us. I have to say that some of the more cynical out there suggest that might be the term of the government, to get them over the election. I'm not really too sure on that one.
You mentioned a little bit about cottage lot development in the region. It's one thing that I hear when I travel to the smaller communities throughout the northwest. They're very interested in such development. You indicated that the crown lands acquisition study done by NOMA has also suggested that this should be a goal for northwestern Ontario. I'm just wondering if you could expand on some of the economic benefits that this would provide for the region.
Mr Wilson: This has been considered for some years. I think it was 1988 when I first heard the phrase "crown land as a development tool." These issues have been around for several governments and still need to be addressed from a municipality's perspective, to be able to enhance that tax base.
When they have a plan of subdivision, when they have some real ability to enhance their tax base in the same way -- some people say, "We don't want to be another Muskoka." That wouldn't be happening for a long time, especially if controls are in place. But to allow a municipality to take some of this land, to be able to develop cottage lots to increase their tax base, is one way a municipality can enhance itself and probably be able to pay for these services that they are going to be required to. When you take a look at how you increase your tax base, that's one that's there. It's doable. It has the support, we understand, of the Minister of Natural Resources.
I think the Northern Ontario Municipal Association has done an excellent job in putting together this study and how it would be done. Whether or not it comes to pass is a concern, especially in the next while. I would hope that all members have an opportunity as well to read up on this and to try to help northwestern Ontario municipalities, and northeastern, to be able to enhance their tax base. This is a method to do it. It always looks good on paper, some great plans are out there, and yet it just never seems to happen.
Mr Gravelle: If I may, Harold, I want to ask you to talk a little bit more about the resource revenue retention mechanism. It's been very clear and the government even acknowledges that the tax base is different here. The community reinvestment funds are there, but not for a permanent period of time. There has to be acknowledgement that it absolutely is permanent. But I think it's important, if you get a chance -- we haven't got a lot of time -- to tell us a little bit more about the resource revenue retention mechanism. I know we don't have all the information we want, but I'd like you to have the opportunity to talk about it a bit.
Mr Wilson: It's taking a look at the wealth that's generated in this area through forestry, through mining and other resources. The amount that is actually captured in this area is slim at best. There are three main partners. You have government, you have the companies themselves, and then you have the local people, be it the municipalities, the workers. Because a lot of these territories pay a heck of a lot of tax and yet it doesn't come back to the municipalities, this has been an issue for decades.
One of the things the network looked at in conjunction with the municipal associations was something that's practised in northeastern Minnesota, the taconite tax, which is being able to take some of the tax dollars that come from the resources in northeastern Minnesota and allocate that back specifically to fund the communities and economic development in northeastern Minnesota. We've investigated that. It's not a perfect model either, but we think it bears an opportunity to discuss it to find out how we can enhance the long-term stability of the taxes and of the services for northern Ontario.
The Vice-Chair: I'd like to call upon the Silver Islet Campers' Association. Good morning, gentlemen, and welcome to the standing committee on general government. I'd like to have you each introduce yourselves for the purposes of Hansard.
Mr Clarkson: First of all, we'd like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak to you this morning. As we've said, we're members of the Silver Islet Campers' Association. This is a group of about 150 summer residences located at the base of Sibley Peninsula, better known as the Sleeping Giant, just across the bay from the city here.
We would like to take a moment to tell you a bit about our community. Silver Islet is one of the oldest communities in northwestern Ontario. It was established in the late 1860s after silver was discovered on a small island about a mile out into Lake Superior. The mine operated until 1883 and at the time was one of the richest, if not the richest, silver mines in the world.
Today, little has changed since those days. Most of the camps have been passed down from generation to generation and have been carefully maintained for over a century. While a secondary highway now makes our community easily accessible year-round, our creature comforts are few. There is no electrical system, no municipal services, no telephones, and even the cellular phone system is very spotty.
We at Silver Islet are also neighbours of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which borders our community on three sides. We have always enjoyed a good relationship with Sleeping Giant, as we have been an important part in their success. Silver Islet is a significant drawing card for the park, featuring prominently in their advertising and onsite displays. Thus we justifiably can boast an importance to the tourism sector of northwestern Ontario.
Many cottage communities in northwestern Ontario, like Silver Islet, are located in unorganized areas with no municipal services. The few we receive from the government of Ontario include access to emergency medical care via the air ambulance out of Thunder Bay and road maintenance along the secondary highway. The Ontario Provincial Police make sporadic visits. Our fire protection consists of a pumper out of the town of Pass Lake, which is 35 kilometres away. Otherwise, as often happens here in the north, we provide for ourselves and take care of ourselves.
We have a vibrant campers' association and work together as a community to provide recreational activities and infrastructure that includes a tennis court and a community centre, all built by volunteers with no government assistance.
We, along with many other recreational communities, have been watching the provincial government's Who Does What exercise with great interest over the past year and a half. Currently, landowners at Silver Islet pay a yearly provincial land tax and education taxes to the Lakehead Board of Education. Education taxes have been paid since 1974 and amount to more than $75,000 annually. It is important to note that no child in that time has accessed the school system through Silver Islet.
The government's proposal to allow for the creation of area services boards, or ASBs, will have a serious impact on all recreational cottage areas in the northwest. It is our understanding that the ASBs will collect property taxes to pay for many services, including child care, welfare, public health, social housing, ambulance and homes for the aged, as well as others that may be included. You will note that of all these mentioned services, only ambulance is available for the residents of our community. This is a similar situation throughout northwestern Ontario, where thousands of local residents, taxpayers in our many cities and towns, escape on weekends to the bush where service is neither available, expected, nor indeed even desired.
This is a very important point that we feel must be stressed to this committee. Campers in the north stand to be taxed twice for services they only receive once. While we do not expect and are not asking that all taxes be removed, we do not feel it would be a fair and revenue-neutral exercise to create ASBs with the ability to tax recreational properties at the same level as permanent properties in Thunder Bay, Marathon, or even small communities like Armstrong or Nakina. Our camps are simply that, camps: places where we can go for a short while to get away from it all.
We will of course pay taxes to both the ASBs and our municipalities in the communities where we live most of the year and where we receive the vast majority of the services that our society provides. Therefore we, along with other recreational areas throughout the region, would like to see provisions included in Bill 12 for a separate recreational property tax class that reflects the almost negligible level of service that we receive and will honestly continue to receive.
We respectfully ask that you consider this point carefully as you debate the clauses of Bill 12, and would like to conclude with this thought. Summer camps play an important role in the economy of our region. Every person who spends their holidays at their camp is keeping money that could be spent on vacations elsewhere here at home. We buy materials in local hardware stores; we shop at local markets and grocers; we contract local companies for services, renovations and construction projects. Communities such as Beardmore are actively looking to expand camps in their area as a way of strengthening their economy. We strongly believe that ASB taxation on our camps -- double taxation for almost all -- will act as a deterrent to this form of economic growth. In the end, it could end up costing our region more than the funds to be raised.
On behalf of the Silver Islet Campers' Association and campers throughout northwestern Ontario, we would like to thank you for the chance to speak to this committee today. We would also like to take this opportunity to invite you out to Silver Islet to see at first hand what our community means to us. In the meantime, we would be happy to do our best to answer any questions you may have.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you for the presentation. I'm somewhat intrigued by the suggestion at the end of your presentation on the class for recreational properties. We've heard a number of presentations that expressed a concern about the recreational properties that utilize the services. They utilize what few services are available in the recreation area on a limited basis because the rest of the time they're living elsewhere in their permanent homes. I think all of those presentations suggested that they should not be taxed based on full value of the property as though it was a permanent home.
You suggest a special class. Is it your suggestion that it would be based on the length of time it's occupied, recognizing that there is still a need to tax at a certain level for the service? Would you suggest that it would be a length of occupancy that would decide whether you were going to be in that class or not in the class?
Mr Clarkson: I think it might be difficult to go with length of occupancy because everybody is different. Some people who are retired spend six months of the year out there. In other words, people who have those cottages out there spent their working lives going out there on weekends and the odd couple of weeks of holidays, and then all of a sudden they retire and they get to spend six months.
But there are other people -- the younger people who are coming up, the children of these people who are retired, and believe me, there are many of them out there -- who have built cottages on their parents' property. They go out the same. They go on weekends now, and it will be another 20, 30 or 40 years before they'll get to spend their six months out there. So I don't know whether a time factor would be a good way to do it.
What we're really trying to say, of course, is that we basically have no services out there. We have the medical service, which is super. We appreciate that and we do use it the odd occasion. But it's available to the park out there as well. At our little local store that's open for two months in the summer we've had people from the park have an emergency situation or chest pains and they've come out there for them as well. So it's not just for the campers. This system is province-wide, of course, but it's a nice thing to have, and that's really about the only thing we have.
I mentioned coming out to visit the place. The road has just been redone, but only to the park. The last five miles out to the cottages and whatnot, you almost need a tractor to get over it. We're benefiting as far as getting as far as the park is concerned, but the rest of the road, there has basically been no maintenance done on it and it's just terrible. So we're not getting much of that either.
All we're saying, I guess, is that we're getting so few services out there and we really don't need them or want them. We've always looked after ourselves out there for over 100 years. Some sort of taxation that would be fair -- and we're willing to pay our fair share. We've been doing it for many years. And I'm sure that there are many other areas, like Shebandowan and other places in the area, that have absolutely the same situation that we have. This is a big cottage area up here and we're not like southern Ontario where everybody has hydro and --
Mr Hardeman: Would you suggest that municipalities would give favourable consideration to charging seasonal -- if they were part of the area services board, that they would set a lower tax rate for the seasonal --
Mr Clarkson: I would hope they would. I am sure that if people knew they could have a summer residence and it wasn't going to be taxed to death -- this area around Thunder Bay is a great part of the world for summer residences. I've been around here all my life, although I've travelled all over and I keep coming back. I have my cottage here. I'm one of the lucky ones. I've been able to retire. I worked for the federal government for 40 years so I was able to retire early and spend my six months out there. This area is just super for camping and if people can get a camp -- you know, we're not all rich people. There are a lot of people out there who had these cottages handed down to them by their parents.
Mr Miclash: Your area sounds unique here in northwestern Ontario. I think you've expressed it well to the committee as to how separate taxation will certainly have to be looked at in order that we can retain a recreational -- as you call it, a tax class in its own, and the fact that we are keeping dollars here in northwestern Ontario by having those recreational properties out there.
Mr Wilson indicated in his presentation just before you, and I'm sure you heard it, the importance of development of cottage lots throughout the region, and I think you have certainly reinforced that fact in terms of showing just how those dollars are kept in. I am happy with Mr Hardeman's comments in terms of recognizing that fact as well, in terms of taking a look at this legislation that will certainly recognize that fact.
Mr Gravelle: Thank you very much, Frank. Certainly may I say to all members of the committee, everything Mr Clarkson and the gentlemen are saying, and several others -- this is a remarkable part of our region and the province and it's really quite beautiful.
I want to thank you for coming out and making your presentation because I think it is very, very important. I'm also encouraged to hear what Mr Hardeman was saying, but I think it's important even in terms of potential amendments to be very specific about the fact that we can't be walking into a double taxation situation, which I think there's a great deal of fear about. You've expressed it very well.
Silver Islet is somewhat unusual too in terms of the very few services that you actually have out there. Most people don't realize it, so I think it's more than significant that you're here and you've made your point. I think you're representing the feelings of a lot of other people.
I'm in essence just thanking you for coming out. I think you've made your points very clearly and I trust that the government members have been listening, as Mr Hardeman certainly indicated. I appreciate that very much.
Your taxes are about to go up. With respect -- I'm not a merchant of fear -- there is no possible way with the new responsibilities, the new services, that your taxes will not go up. This is a given. There is nothing in the legislation, and it would have been simple, that prevents otherwise. Your taxes will go up.
You heard the tone from Mr Hardeman. If you read between the lines, it's called a fair share, it's called encompassing, getting everybody. There is nothing in this legislation that says, "We will do so," nor will there be in the regulations. "We will cushion your taxes. They will only go up by 5% or by 10%." Expect the value of your property to go down, because one of the first questions that people will ask is, "How much are the taxes and what am I getting for those taxes?"
You've said so eloquently, and I thank you, that you're not asking. The reason why you have a camp is not because you wish to live in the city of Thunder Bay. You go to camp to recreate. You want it that way. You're not opposed to paying a fair share, quoting verbatim, if I may. You're not opposed to having your association fork over or pay a little more to fix the road. At one time you'll have to get the grader out because you can't go on potholes unless you have a vehicle that can manoeuvre. But not everyone can afford a Hummer, and you shouldn't have to.
But by the same token, you're about to get it in the pocketbook. I'm not going to be very popular by saying this, but let's make no mistake about this. When Big Brother or Big Sister, the big city comes, they will want you to pay for the home for the aged. They will want you to pay for the ambulance; not all of it, a small part it. But you will pay a small part of everything. Whisky costs money. There is no free lunch here so when they give you the menu, you will have a small part of this, of this and of this that you don't have at present.
But it's coming to your neighbourhood, it's coming to your camp. So expect your taxes to go up, unless these people with the majority tell you, "There is so much money in the pot and if your taxes go up by 20%, we will take that money set aside to make sure that people at Silver Islet will not have to pay." But they're not going to do that. Ask them. They won't do it. In other words, look at your pockets, because it's coming out of your pocket to pay for services that you don't need, in many cases, nor that you wish to have, in all cases.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I sympathize. I'll take your invitation, I'll take you on. I'd better go now because in a couple of years down the line I don't want to go to a municipality or to a territory where there is nobody who lives there.
The Vice-Chair: I'd like to call upon the Rainy River District Municipal Association, Glenn Witherspoon and Dennis Brown. Good afternoon, gentleman. Welcome to the standing committee on general government.
Mr Glenn Witherspoon: Thank you very much. Good morning. I'm Glenn Witherspoon, mayor of Fort Frances, president of the Rainy River District Municipal Association and currently interim chair of the new DSSAB that's been formed in our district.
Mr Witherspoon: Welcome to northwestern Ontario. I'm sure all the other delegates have said that. We do indeed appreciate the effort that the government has made to come north and listen to people at first hand. I thought I was in a theatre for a minute when Gilles was expounding his efforts, but I didn't pay to get in.
We in the Rainy River district are indeed looking forward to Bill 12's final passage. As you know, we are a district which is a step ahead of some of the other districts in the north. We've had DWABs, the DSSAB is now being formed, and we are waiting for the northern area services board to become a reality, with the extra services that are coming with it.
We support the bill totally. Although Bill 12 has six or seven services that it will be bringing with it, we feel that for years the provincial governments have asked for more input in controlling these local issues and Bill 12 would give us the teeth to act in that regard.
We do have some concerns about some of the bill's writings in regard to financing. We know that the CRF, the community reinvestment fund that's in place at the moment, doesn't have permanency to it. We know that we're good until the end of 1999. I think that when the act finally gets to passing there has to be something so that the northern area services boards will know there is some longevity to this and that they have to have that assurance of continuance of support from the provincial government.
As you know, we in northwestern and northern Ontario are 80% surrounded by unincorporated areas. In the act it states that certain bills are to be sent to the provincial government and in turn it will reimburse the boards. We feel, especially in the Rainy River district, that the government has the opportunity here to reduce red tape. It has reduced over 200 issues in its legislation so far and it has an opportunity to reduce more red tape and make the bill very streamlined, to give the governance to the people who are at the front line and not to get involved with asking for billings for unincorporated areas for roads and whatnot, and turn the entire concept over to the local areas.
Ontario Housing gives us a bit of a concern. Although it's not directly written in the bill, the private non-profit housing authorities apparently have a free and open rein to set their own budgets and will ask us for funding. We feel that they should have no more priority than the regular non-profit housing and that they should be treated the same. We're also a little concerned that when the mortgages are paid, the surpluses would have to be returned to the government of the day, whether that be five or 10 years down the road. We think we're going to take on the responsibility and when the profits start showing up in this function they should be left for improvement of that service.
Also in the bill it says that they are recommending four payments. We feel that is too long. Two payments would suffice from municipalities. If you have one in March and one in September they can operate more fluidly with the cash flows, without having to go to banking institutions.
Also, you had in the bill that if some municipalities pay earlier, there should be reimbursements for cash incentives. That too is unfair because some municipalities are better off than others and they shouldn't be able to get a discount for paying early. So I think that should be reconsidered.
We in the Rainy River district are ready to take on the northern area services board. As I mentioned earlier in my presentation, the DSAAB representation has been formed. Some of the bigger municipalities have weighted votes and it's been accepted by the unorganized areas. The unorganized areas have their representatives named. We feel it would be very easy to go from DSAAB to the northern area services board and we're ready for that opportunity.
Mr Brown: I have circulated some information concerning specific comments related to the Atikokan township council. I think that's indicative of our great province where there are opportunities in our democratic system for communities that do have some uniqueness to express their points of view. So I've outlined some of the things here where Atikokan has indicated it has not been completely in agreement with the other members of the Rainy River district.
Number one, we certainly support the initiative for a governance model that meets the provincial government's objective of smaller, less wasteful modes of government. We don't know if the Northern Services Improvement Act will actually save our township any money, so for that reason we're asking you to take your time and be patient, think it out as carefully as possible and do it right.
Ideally, we would like to see a cost-benefit analysis completed to see whether the land ambulance and public health would actually save funds for our community by being part of the six core services provided under the act. We would prefer land ambulance and public health to be optional rather than mandatory services, initially at least.
We have some concerns about land ambulance being included as one of the six core services, as Atikokan's land ambulance system is more closely associated with Thunder Bay than it is with the remainder of the Rainy River district. In the western part of the Rainy River district from Fort Frances to Rainy River, there is one hospital board that manages the three hospitals, Fort Frances, Emo and Rainy River, that the ambulances in that area serve. Atikokan isn't part of that system.
We feel that the DSSAB should be allowed to be in existence for a year or so before area services boards are considered. This will allow time to ensure all stakeholders have time to get the area services board structure right.
I'm going to go, in the interest of time, to the second page. That is the part that concerns us, about the possible elimination of grants. I've indicated there that Atikokan township council is very concerned that the provincial government, by implementing the area services board structure, will be further reducing or possibly eliminating grants to municipalities. This is quite unacceptable to our municipality. I've outlined how the cutbacks in our grants have taken place close to the last 10 years, where in 1990 we received $1,446,656, and in 1997 we were down to $1,285,439. In 1998, we are projected to get more money through the transitional fund and special circumstances fund, but with that we get more expenses and you can see what it works out to. We still have $121,000 less in 1998 compared to 1997.
We just can't take any more cutbacks. Somehow the provincial government has to work out a system where it's carved in stone, and on a permanent basis, that the money is there for municipalities. We urge you to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that especially the small communities in the north, as well as the other parts of Ontario, are taken into consideration and that something is there for them.
Dennis, you've indicated a difference in terms of $121,000 less that Atikokan will receive from the province. Beyond that, have you realized any expenses in terms of fees to the local taxpayer or other expenses that have been added because of the downloading?
Mr Brown: We see examples like in our hospital, where cutbacks are affecting the health care system, our education system. We were losing jobs from Atikokan because of the amalgamation of the school boards. For capital projects, in 1998 we're doing very little and I don't know how we are ever going to be able to do much other than just a regular maintaining. But as far as resurfacing more roads and repairing our streets and that, it's going to be a problem. I don't know what the solution is. So yes, we see too many cuts taking place.
Mr Miclash: I think that's something the committee must hear. As you were saying, Glenn, we appreciate the committee coming north for these hearings because, as I've been telling the Legislature right from day one, I have yet to hear of a councillor, mayor or reeve who has actually considered the whole exercise revenue-neutral. It's good for us to see actual figures in front of us and to hear from the two of you in terms of those.
Mr Witherspoon: I think we have to this degree. When any bill is written, there could be more time spent and maybe more input from the actual players on the team rather than deriving the final bill without input. This exercise is definitely well worth it. As my colleague from Atikokan, Mayor Brown, has said, funding is definitely an issue. The CRF funding as we know, from our understanding, is until the end of 1999, but it has to be a continuance, because there is an elimination of municipal support grants, and the funding that's coming over with the northern area services board is basically coming with the services that are expected to be operated. The government is exactly on the right track of elimination of waste and elimination of duplication of boards, but the proper financing has to be there and the financing can be saved with teamwork from both levels of government.
I agree with you. We all accept the premise that no duplication and less wasteful government are better for each and every one one of us. That's a general consensus. When all is said and done, you're short $121,000 from year to year. Sure, you get a little more money, but then your costs have increased because of your new responsibilities.
I would like you to share with us if you have it, focusing on Bill 12, in that context, what the impact will be, because I don't have an impact study with me or a feasibility study and they are about to pass this legislation. This will become law. It will receive royal assent some time in October. How will it impact your municipalities? How will it impact the Rainy River District Municipal Association?
Mr Witherspoon: I'll speak first in regard to Bill 12. I feel that the impact on the majority of the municipalities will not be that great because we are going to bring in the unincorporated areas that have been obtaining a lot of services and paying nothing for them. There is no doubt about it that some municipalities' budgets will differ up or down to a small degree. The unincorporated areas, you mentioned to the last speakers, are going to pay, and rightly so. They should pay, because if the ambulance comes out and picks them up or if they have a mother or a daughter or a brother who has to go to the home for the aged, someone should pay. When those ratios are brought into the picture, then some of the organized municipalities will pay less.
Mr Pouliot: You say the impact should not be that great and everyone should pay their fair share. My question was, and I'm curious -- I'm not saying that's not good enough for us -- where is the impact study? How will it impact me? Give me some -- you can't. I know they can't. They don't have an impact study, or if they do -- the government, that is -- they haven't shared it with people. Then the people are asking: "How will that affect me in my neck of the woods? How will my circumstances change?"
You are the responsible representative of the people at the municipal level and I'm asking you the same question as a resident of your municipality. How will this impact me? You don't know. You don't feel that it will go up or down too much. Simply put, you don't know because you have not been told. We have some ministry representatives, and I want to see some hard figures before I engage in support of the legislation. If in doubt, I vote no. They have to convince us that this is good but I smell a rat, never mind looking at one. The thing is this is a venue --
Mr Preston: It's very easy to ask for an impact study when every impact study on every single community is going to be different. We could not possibly give you impact studies or anybody an impact study on every single community. Yes, there are going to be rises in taxes, yes, there are going to be decreases in taxes, but that is dependent on the model that you present to us, not on what we present to you. That's the idea of the program.
Mr Froese: We on the government side appreciate the concerns on the funding issue, and that's why with the community reinvestment fund the north received 42% of it. It's not that we're oblivious to those concerns. We understand that, and I think it was addressed in the community reinvestment fund. Certainly we'll take back your concerns that you have presented here as well.
Mr Witherspoon: Many municipalities do not have the ability to generate a new tax base; they're maxed. One example is Atikokan. They lost their mine about 15 years ago. They can get so many small industries and small businesses, but it's not the same.
Mr Froese: Sure. Mr Brown, in number 7 of your presentation you had asked if the community might not join the new area services board, and the answer is obviously that it's voluntary. They don't have to join if they don't want to join. In the act it says that there would be a three-year phase-in or a three-year window, as it were. Is that adequate, in your opinion, or should it be more, should it be less?
Mr Hardeman: There have been a number of comments made about the community reinvestment fund, and this presentation made it again. The community reinvestment fund is the permanent fund that municipalities will continue to get, as they have been receiving the municipal support grant in the past. The one that is at times the sensitive grant is the special circumstances funding that municipalities receive to cover some of the transitional funding that came into place in the transition years. That is a two-year fund as it presently stands. The community reinvestment fund is a permanent fund to help recognize the differences in the assessment base of different parts of the province.
Mr Ron Nelson: My name is Ron Nelson. I am the reeve of O'Connor township, which is a small municipality just outside of the city of Thunder Bay. I am also past president of the Thunder Bay District Municipal League and chair of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.
I'd like to thank the committee for allowing me the opportunity to address the issues in regard to Bill 12. Some of the things in Bill 12 that we need clarification on, that we would like to see, are the geographic areas as listed in the bill. It shows the districts in the north, Algoma, and in our riding in the Thunder Bay district, the Rainy River and Kenora areas. The reason I ask this is that we sat down back in 1997 with the city of Thunder Bay and started a process regarding the formation of an ASB. At that time we had ministry representatives from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines at the table. We came to a loggerhead and it did not pass. We could not come to a consensus.
The next thing that was rammed down our throats was the DSSAB. We could not, again, come to a consensus because the city has major concerns regarding that. We received a letter yesterday from Mr Hodgson and Ms Janet Ecker that a DSSAB has been established and that the city is part of it.
The reason we need clarification on whether there is any flexibility in the geographic areas is that the district of Thunder Bay, excluding the city of Thunder Bay, has a population base greater than that of Rainy River, and you've allowed that one or you're considering that one. The city by itself has a population base of 113,000. In the unincorporated areas you have a population base of well in excess of 8,000 people.
I was reading through the bill, and one of the concerns I have is about the fact that you stipulate you can have local boards, you can have ASBs, but the question is, are you going to allow three of them, including one for the unincorporated so they can perform their own destiny, collect the taxes as they see fit and produce the mandatory core programs?
I think the ironic thing with this bill, regardless of whether it's this bill or whether it's a DSSAB, is that this government again has imposed that the municipalities are the bad guys, which I don't think is really true. I don't think your government is really that bad either.
The collection of taxes in the unincorporated areas has been a sore point with the municipalities as well as with the people who live in those communities. What the bill does is form another bureaucracy and another level of government to get taxes. Taxation model number 1 includes the province. You people go and get the taxes and pay the ASB. Taxation model number 2 is the closest thing to regional government that I've seen. You totally disband the provincial level of any accountability to that board.
Our concern is the loss of the grant structures that are in place right now, the community reinvestment fund. As for Mr Hardeman, he should have been at the NOMA meeting which was held here in the city because Minister Hodgson said, "The community reinvestment fund is a permanent fund for two years." Read me again, "For two years." He stood in front of 150 people and said that, so just to clarify.
With the taxation model number 2, the unincorporated will not have fair representation no matter which way you look at it. The formation of DSAAB was imposed on the district. It was imposed in Rainy River; it was imposed in the north. This was a solution that the province felt was needed.
I look at Bill 12 as a feel-good act, to make you feel good. The analogy I use is at the supper table when my wife has made spinach and my two little boys are sitting there and they say, "What's for supper?" She says, "We're having spinach." "Oh, but you know I don't like spinach." "Yeah, but I cooked it a different way." Either way you cut it, it's still spinach. This is an act that looks at it and says: "It makes you feel good. You have a local solution and a local choice." I hate to say it, but there don't seem to be too many local choices in this, because if you don't take Bill 12, you're stuck with the DSAAB, which is still another bureaucracy that will provide services. Whether it's going to save dollars, time will tell.
With that, one of the concerns we have is that a study was done with Peat Marwick Thorne in regard to financial impacts by the year 2000 alone. In the north we cannot afford to lose the community reinvestment fund or the special circumstances fund. We do not have the assessment base. By taking over areas of the unincorporated, and they're going to come in kicking and screaming and fighting -- I do not want to sit around the table here or at a board structure and say that the municipalities imposed this level on to these people. You people are the ones who are forcing your cards to the people of the unincorporated.
Upon the elimination of the special transition funds, raised taxes are going to be inevitable. All taxes are going to increase. Through the WDW process, in the report of Peat Marwick Thorne, a per capita household increase in the north on average will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $800 per household. With the development of an ASB, I find it very difficult for that board to try and find that money to offset the loaded costs that are coming down to it.
The core services that are established under an ASB are a little bit more prescriptive than they are under a DSAAB. You now have a lot of ministries all under one hat of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. It's a concern because, do we have the power in the lobby group to go back to municipal affairs? Do we have an opportunity to go to community and social services when the ministry that controls this whole ASB is northern development and mines? Our concern is whether or not we'll lose the lobby power to change regulations in the acts to allow us more flexibility. Thank you.
Mr Pouliot: Thank you, Ron, a renewed pleasure indeed. I'll give you a secret of our most honourable trade. When I was at transportation, and northern development and mines, we looked quite closely at the unorganized territories. We did the same rationale of "Me too; if I pay taxes, why should you?" Some of us even questioned the validity of special places that people called home and said, "They used to do this 50 years ago but the main industry left town and yet we're stuck, all of us, with subsidizing those." We weren't too strong on the human dimension when you add things up.
However, when you embark, whether people like it or not, and to me that's the bottom line -- I think that's the reason why we didn't push it any further. Heaven knows governments are always short of money, or so they say. We didn't go further. Simply put, if I'm to pay the same taxes or my taxes are going up substantially, am I to expect, because I'm like you now in terms of paying, the same services that you often take for granted? If I'm eight kilometres out of your township and my taxes are going up because I'm starting to pay for this and that, will you give me the guarantee as a citizen that you will pave the road and you will maintain the road? The government will not give you that kind of money for infrastructure.
I'm tired of the septic tank. I know it meets all conformity to have well water but I want to be connected. The problem with us is that we're eight kilometres out of town and there are only 150 of us. But beware when there's one hand that takes and the other hand has to give. They go together. That's the reason why we didn't do it. We cursed and jumped up and down and in the final analysis we said, "No, the pain outweighs the gains by far."
I think that unless you know pretty well exactly what will happen and when it will happen, be in doubt, and if you're not cognizant of the impact it will have on your municipality and also on the other people who are being "incorporated," then you have to tread very, very carefully, because when this thing is done, there is no turning back. You can't play ping-pong.
When they said it's a voluntary mechanism that you have so many months to enter but this is no gimmick here. They have a lot of clout. It's hardly veiled if at all. You either join or you get on board. There's only one train leaving the station, and if you don't get on board, twist of the wrist, slap on the hand. You don't have much choice. This is not the most democratic of exercises. You do as you're told, but then they won't tell you how much it will cost you. I'm concerned about Bill 12 for those reasons, not because we didn't do it -- governments change and so be it -- but because the impact has not been fully explained to people. Do you share that, Ron?
Mr Nelson: Again, the organized municipalities for years in the north have always indicated that the unincorporated were not paying for the services that were being provided through -- sometimes in a lot of municipalities they serviced the unincorporated. That has been an ongoing thing since way before I got involved in politics and it probably will be. They feel they are justly served and that they are paying their fair share; municipalities and people who live in municipalities feel that they're not paying their fair share.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you for the presentation. First of all, I just want to reiterate the issue of the funding as it relates to the grants that will be added to municipal budgets to make the transition in the transfer of municipal and provincial services. There is a $600-million community reinvestment fund, which stands in the place of what used to be the municipal support grant. That is an ongoing fund. Obviously what a government may do 10 years from now with a community investment fund or what they would have done if there were still a municipal support grant is a decision that governments of the future will make. The present government has made the decision that it is an ongoing, permanent fund. Incidentally, of that fund northern Ontario, because of their inability to achieve the same tax base they have in southern Ontario, got $268 million, or 40% of that fund, to offset the assessment problem that exists.
The other fund was a $77-million special circumstances fund and that is the one the minister referred to as a two-year fund as it's presently set up. That's not to suggest that decisions in the future could not be made to extend or to do others with it, but it was a fund required for special circumstances as they exist in municipalities, again as different municipalities have different circumstances. Of that, the north received $18.3 million, or 25% of that fund. But I want to emphasize that the community reinvestment fund is a permanent fund to help municipalities cover the cost of the realignment of those services.
Mr Hardeman: I want to point out that it is a very permissive piece of legislation. Municipalities will only use it if it is to the benefit of the people they were elected to serve. If in the three-year period of time, hypothetically, no one in all of northern Ontario decided to take that approach to form an area services board, that would also comply with the legislation. There's nothing in the legislation that at any point in time would force a municipality to enter into an area services board arrangement with their neighbouring municipalities, different, as you mentioned, from the DSSABs, the social services boards, which are set up throughout northern Ontario now to deliver the social services that are being delivered by the municipalities. I wanted to make sure that we --
The comment I have is on its being voluntary to get into an ASB, as you say, to see whether after two or three years it works. Do we also have the option to opt out of it if it's nothing but a nightmare?
Mr Hardeman: No, the legislation does not anticipate people getting in and getting out as they deem appropriate. I would assume that any municipality would give considerable consideration as they were putting it together and then they would only put it in place if it was going to be to the benefit of the people they serve. No, part of the legislation is not an opting-in and opting-out clause. In fact, as I mentioned to a previous presenter, the window of three years is meant to put some finality into the process. All those who are looking at making these changes can be somewhat confident that when they are made, they will not keep changing how these services are going to be or should be delivered and how they should be paid for.
Mr Gravelle: Ron, good to see you. I just want to confirm one thing Mr Nelson said during his presentation. It's true, because I was at the NOMA meeting as well and the question was asked of the minister about the community reinvestment fund, and he said precisely, "The community reinvestment fund is a permanent fund for the next two years" -- for two years. Those are exactly the words he used, which I think should at least alert you to the fact that the words "permanent" and "two years" apparently can be used in the same sentence. This is what concerns us. Certainly the special circumstances fund is crucial as well.
A point Mr Nelson made that I'd like to have you talk about a little bit more, if you would, is that both these funds are crucial in terms of the process not resulting in massive property tax increases to our residents. Is that not true?
Mr Nelson: If you take away the community reinvestment funding, you're going to bankrupt every municipality in northwestern Ontario unless they go after the ratepayer. Like I indicated to Mr Leach when he was at a NOMA conference, should you take away any funding that is in place right now, you're more than welcome to come to my community because I'll hand you the keys and you run it. The fact of the matter is that without the community reinvestment fund and the special circumstances fund, most municipalities in northwestern Ontario cannot survive, plain and simple. We do not have the assessment base.
The other problem I see with this, again going back to the unincorporated, in areas of the unincorporated there is not enough assessment. If this government wants to go with that, then I think what they should look at is all the unincorporated townships. Give them a community reinvestment fund equal to the percentages of a municipality for the sizes they are. Then your tax burden going to the unincorporated will be a little bit less.
Mark my words, these people in the unincorporated are going to get hit, and hit heavy. I do not, and that's why I am stating it, look at this as the province's indicating this bill and the DSSAB bill -- which is going to increase taxes in the unincorporated substantially. Municipal leaders in the north are not going to get blamed for this one.
Mr Gravelle: Don't you think it really is cynical of this government, because that's precisely what they're going to do? They've said more than once it'll be up to the municipalities to make those decisions. They'll have their choices, as they say, when there aren't many choices out there, much like there's no real choice in that a DSSAB has been imposed and now you have the option of an ASB. The word "choice" I think is a strange word to be used around here. As you say, it's got to be made clear that this is not the responsibility of municipalities and this is being imposed by the province.
Mr Nelson: The province has said: "You have a choice, a DSAAB or an ASB. Take your pick. Which one do you want? If you don't like either one of them, I'm sorry, you're going to get stuck with the DSAAB." It is proven that a DSAAB has now been forced on to the district of Thunder Bay, no if, and or but. I have the letter right in front of me, signed by Mr Hodgson and Ms Ecker, that a DSAAB is going to be formed, plain and simple.
Mr David Leskowski: Thank you very much. I am commenting as a representative of the unincorporated territories in the Thunder Bay district. I thank you for allowing this kind of public input. I've broken my talk into two or three sections.
The first one is just discussing the concept itself of an area services board. During the time I have been involved in discussions related to the setting up of an area services board, I have learned that this kind of legislation has been considered by many previous provincial governments. Judging by the frequency and regularity of the appearance of these attempts, it seems inevitable that some new kind of service delivery model will be put into place eventually. That's our feeling in the unincorporated territories.
We proceed from that assumption. We have been holding public meetings on a fairly regular basis over the last two years. Since residents in the unincorporated territories have been holding public meetings to discuss the proposals to create an area services board, there has been some favourable support for the concept. This support has been positive for two reasons. The first reason is that those who reside in rural areas live there because they want to exercise some control over the services they access. They already dig their own wells, take care of their own septic fields and haul their own garbage. In a very general sense an area services board promises to transfer more control of community services to local governments and local residents. Some residents also think that these services, if locally controlled, can be delivered more effectively and more economically. Those comments come up repeatedly in our meetings, with many examples.
The second reason for a positive response to an ASB proposal is that it appears to be an alternative to increasing the level of local governments. Unincorporated territories have not incorporated because they didn't want to. Regardless of what the previous presenter, Mr Larson, said from whatever planet he was on at the time that he formulated his presentation, there is no support for a higher level of organization in the unincorporated territories. Meeting after meeting, no groundswell of grassroots support is there for higher levels of organization. That simply is not the case.
Residents in the unincorporated territories have not wanted to spend time going to council meetings. They do not want more town halls, they don't want more payrolls, they don't want more building inspectors, firearms bylaws and zoning restrictions. These things come up all the time. They do, however, recognize that to increase local control of services, a corresponding increase in delivery mechanisms is required. Presently, the only way to achieve this is to incorporate or to amalgamate, and inherit all the other trappings of a higher level of local government. Our hope is that an ASB will be capable of delivering some local control, with only a reasonable increase in government structure.
I must emphasize the words "reasonable increase in government structure," because all stakeholders, except for the empire builders, who you may have heard from here today, do not relish the thought of creating an entirely new level of government. If an ASB results in more bricks and mortar, escalating budgets, payrolls, perks for politicians and duplication of municipal or provincial services, our support will vanish overnight.
The next thing I'd like to discuss is taxation. Besides questions about the structure of an ASB, there are many questions being asked about how taxation in the unincorporated territories will change. We have seen many changes already and more are expected, regardless of the introduction of any new service boards. The reduced role that the province is taking for road maintenance alone is a great worry to many rural residents. We only hope that obtaining more local control will allow tax dollars to go further.
Of course, there is great fear that an ASB may cause unfair overall increases in taxation. Primarily the fear is that, on an area-wide basis, residents will be taxed for services they do not access, cannot access, will never access and do not even want. Nobody objects to paying for services they access. Most of the social services fit into this category. Who knows when they will need an ambulance or welfare or social housing or child care or a home for the aged? And few argue against public health services.
We encourage you to adopt a taxation model that allows for regional differences and regional choices. If residents in one township, such as myself, want to maintain their roads in barely passable condition and residents in another want pavement, allow the tax model to respond to that. If one area wants 24-hour community policing and another wants only emergency response, let the tax bills reflect those choices. In the unincorporated territories, businesses by and large coexist peacefully with residences, farms and multiresidential areas. This appears to be in stark contrast to the philosophies and tax ratios adopted by the municipalities.
Referring directly to Bill 12, we would favour taxation model 1, where municipalities can use their own tax ratios. We in the unincorporated territories would like to maintain a 1-to-1 ratio across the board. Model 2's proposal for a single tax ratio across the district would turn support for an ASB into tax revolts and probably civil disobedience. At minimum, it will put many commercial enterprises out of business and in fact decrease the total tax base. These businesses have located in the unincorporated territories for a reason. I can think of no more than one out of 10 in my area that will still be in business if you put them into a tax ratio model of any of the municipalities.
Regarding representation, in order for the needs of the unincorporated territories to be fairly met, they must be represented properly. During various ASB committee meetings, a number of models for representation have been proposed. Some of these proposals have emphasized population, some territorial blocks, and others numbers of entities. In the latter case, each organized municipality has counted as one. There are 17 municipalities in our district. The city of Thunder Bay is counted as one and for some reason all the unincorporated territories tend to be lumped together into one entity. Any model adopted for representation must reflect the needs of the majority of the population -- it's agreed -- and consider the vastness of all the territories it must serve.
As the services which could be administered by the ASB may be evenly accessed by all residents, regardless of whether they live in an incorporated or an unincorporated territory, we wonder why there should be such a noted difference based on their level of organization. Municipal residents can go to their local library, call their dogcatcher and get a building permit from their town office, and they should pay for these services in their own area, but when they access an ASB core service in the same way that a resident in an unincorporated area accesses it, why should they be more represented on the board?
We do not have the magic formula to propose here for representation on the ASB, but we would like to highlight some characteristics of the unincorporated territories. We are more than the 8,600 taxpayers listed on the assessment rolls. Our territory occupies, by our own estimate, 97.3% of the district of Thunder Bay. When forests are cut, when clients go to outfitters' camps, when mines are opened and when there are accidents on the highway, chances are good it will happen in unincorporated territory. Compared to the 17 municipal areas, there are over 100 surveyed townships in the unincorporated territories. How about a representative for every 25 townships? There are eight local services boards. There are an additional 47 roads boards. While that number may be reduced in the future, the vastness of the territory and the kilometres of roads used by residents, workers and tourists will probably not decrease.
A representative must, by definition, represent somebody. It may be possible for a representative to know what is happening in two adjoining municipalities, if the number of residents is small and the area represented can be driven across in one day. If the ASB is serious about wanting to represent the needs of the district, representatives should not be responsible for an area larger than they can drive across in time for a meeting or so large that a public meeting held in the area cannot be attended by a reasonably significant number of area residents.
At minimum, we recommend that for the unincorporated territories there should be one representative from the area southwest of the city of Thunder Bay, one from the area northwest of the city, one from the Highway 11-Highway 17 corridor east of Thunder Bay, and one from Armstrong.
Armstrong itself poses certain challenges, due not only to its remoteness but to its unique role in the district. Take all that you've heard here about the differences between municipalities and unincorporated territories into consideration when I read this next paragraph.
There is a medical clinic in Armstrong, unincorporated territory, which is administered by the Ministry of Health but is also part of the underserviced area program out of Sudbury. There is an ambulance service, provided by the Nipigon hospital. Changes in that arrangement are expected to occur in January 1999. There is social housing, funded not by the province but by CMHC. A number of residential units owned by the CMHC are occupied by those in need. They pay $150 per month over 15 years until they take ownership of the buildings themselves. There is an airport and there is economic development. This economic development is provided by a non-profit corporation called the Armstrong Resources Development Corp. This corporation obtains only 15% of its funding from the MNDM. They generate 85% of their own income. They used to receive royalties from Avenor for wood products cut on land in their jurisdiction. Since then they've purchased an unused school from the school board for $1, renovated it and earn income from office space occupied by Buchanan Forest Products, a legal clinic, a courtroom and many others. I don't feel that this unorganized territory is a big drain to the municipalities.
It has been felt that the area being called the "district of Thunder Bay" is in fact too large to remain one district. We would prefer that it be split into at least two parts. We would also support the proposal that the city of Thunder Bay not be included as one of the entities. Instead, we would prefer it to be seen as a service provider for the district. Really, services are not delivered to 80% of the population, located within 323 square kilometres, which is 0.26% of this district, the same way they are delivered to the remaining 20% of the population spread out over 125,547 square kilometres. There's no way those services are delivered in the same way.
As summary, I have a big gripe. When the ASB committee first met, a number of meetings were held without any representation from the unincorporated territories. I believe there were two or three. Until reviewing the minutes, I think John Ranta or somebody from the city recommended that those meetings cease until someone from the unincorporated territories should attend. This was not a good start and it was not the way to obtain co-operation from us.
When the agenda switched from talks involving an ASB to a DSSAB, communication was sent out by the Ministry of Community and Social Services containing reference to four representatives from the unincorporated territories participating. However, even after numerous meetings and a relatively good degree of agreement between the city of Thunder Bay, the municipal representatives and us in the unincorporated territories, one meeting was held on June 25 this year where, just by circumstance, perhaps due to the geographical size of our area, no representative from the unincorporated territories was able to attend.
On June 25, ADW Consulting facilitated a meeting attended only by the city of Thunder Bay and the municipalities. In their correspondence, using slogans like "informed vision," "reliable ideas" and "effective directions," they proclaimed that a consensus for representation was reached. This consensus reduced the participation of the unincorporated territories back to one. This is not the way to maintain co-operation, and I hope our tax dollars are spent on higher-quality consulting firms in the future.
We look forward to continuing to participate in the development of better ways to deliver services in our district. We are confident that the process from this public meeting forward can be both fair and effective. Thank you for your time.
Mr Hardeman: We thank you very much for your presentation, again pointing out that the issue of the unorganized is not necessarily that we do not want to pay our fair share but that we want to pay exactly that, our fair share. Your comments about the division of where these services are being provided and where they're being consumed and how that relates to how you couldn't have everyone paying exactly the same and still stick with the fair analysis, I appreciate you putting that forward and giving us something to look at and work with to make sure that's being done.
Just at the end, when you said you have a gripe, I can see there is some concern and it appears legitimate concern that the dialogue locally on the issue hasn't been quite as good as it should have been and it appears that maybe more of that needs to be done. I guess it also points out why it is that the DSSAB was implemented in the last week or so as opposed to coming to a local agreement of how it was going to be provided, because it would appear from that negotiation that a local solution was not imminent and was not going to be found. We hope that if the bill passes and the district decides to look at the area services board, a better dialogue approach will serve the needs of all of us a little better. Thank you for your presentation.
Mr Gravelle: Thank you very much for your brief, Mr Leskowski. It was very detailed in a lot of interesting ways, but I think what it highlights is how almost impossible it is for this to end up being a fair process. I think the bill itself was set up that way, even in terms of the representation that you described. The unincorporated areas are just massive. Your use of Armstrong is a very good example. A community that operates with a number of services and is out there with a medical clinic and other such things and the development corporation, how can it be represented really fairly? I think you made that very clear.
I must admit that it's difficult to understand how the government could even see this as being something that is remotely fair in terms of how the representation works out, let alone the fact that the imposition of the district social services administration board now leaves the district in a pretty interesting position, as Mr Nelson was talking about earlier, in terms of what choices they really have. No matter what, in terms of representation on the boards I don't think there's going to be a way to make the representation entirely fair, whether you're talking about unincorporated or you're talking about the municipalities within the district. The city of Thunder Bay itself will express some discomfort or unhappiness at it. It's a process that I think we shouldn't be going through, but in fact we are. Thank you very much for your presentation.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much for your presentation. It's quite obvious, from an editorial that I saw last week in one of the weekly newspapers in Kapuskasing, that it looks like the eventual role of this government is to have 10 regional governments in northern Ontario and the ultimate goal would be to have only five or six where the cities of Thunder Bay, North Bay and Sault Ste Marie would control everything in northern Ontario, and the unorganized areas and even the small municipalities would have no say on what is going on. It looks like this is the way the agenda is being driven from Queen's Park, where northern Ontario will have no say on what type of government is going to take place, especially if this government gets elected for a second term. We know that there'll be five cities in northern Ontario and nothing else will mean anything to anybody: "Just pay the taxes and keep your mouth shut."
Mr Leskowski: At one of our meetings I discovered the NDP government was planning on creating a social services board by arbitrarily drawing the line on the Spruce River Road and arbitrarily putting everybody into one on one side and one on the other.
Mr Leskowski: As I said, during these meetings I have found there is no safety in any of the governments that we have before us. This ASB proposal has a chance of working if the representation is fair. I'm not here to bash a government or support a government. I think we can work with this. I've outlined our concerns and our gripes very clearly.
Mr Leskowski: I do not feel that if there is a change of government this whole issue is going to go away, because service delivery must be changed. We're trying to work very positively with the city, with the municipalities and with the provincial government. We're only asking for fair representation.
Mr Miclash: I'd just like, as the member for the Kenora riding, to welcome the committee into Kenora this afternoon. As some people will know, we started off in Thunder Bay this morning, had a very busy morning and I'm certainly looking forward to a great afternoon here in Kenora. So again I'd just like to welcome the committee to Kenora and we're happy to have you here for the hearings.
The Vice-Chair: I'd like to call upon our first presenter, Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, Mr David Canfield, the president. Welcome to the standing committee on general government. You have 20 minutes in which to make your presentation and you may use all or part of the time allotted to you. If there is time available, we'll have questions from the caucus members.
First off, I'd like to welcome everybody here and thank you for coming. I realized that as the session was closing, it was kind of debatable whether the second reading was going to get going and the committee was going to be here. In fact, I was running around Queen's Park that day trying to corner everybody to make sure that second reading got through because it was very important for us up here to get it on the table and get some discussion around it and get moving, seeing as we're a little bit ahead on this and we don't like to get held up. So I want to thank you for coming here on behalf of NOMA.
The brief I've got is fairly straightforward and fairly general. I'd be quite willing to answer questions after on more specifics, but being that I'm representing all of NOMA, I figured I'd better not put my personal opinions in the forefront and get my hand slapped afterwards.
In the north, we believe that the Northern Services Improvement Act is a move in the right direction to consolidate services and eliminate duplication and delivery at a local level by the people who know best, the people in the north. As we've worked very hard over the last year and a half in developing models of governance and delivery, it is vitally important that the government accept our models and ideas and base the legislation on our needs and not Toronto's needs.
The legislation must be flexible even though it is northern legislation. Because of our size and diversity, one size just won't fit all. The Kenora District Area Services Board could be completely different from one in the northeast because of different needs, population and geographic size.
Another serious concern is pay. If we're going to pay for these services and deliver these services, then the government must stand back and allow us to do our job. We can agree to guidelines on certain levels of services, but if the government tries to control our governance of these services, then they shouldn't be transferred in the first place. It wouldn't make any sense for the government to tell us how to spend and manage our own money, nor would it make any sense to transfer services and not give us full control of their governance. We've dwelt at the AMO level too on the fact of pay for say.
During the next five years, as we develop and probably change our models as we learn and we get further into this process, the government must understand that we may need changes to the act or possibly just the regulations. The bottom line is that the government has made sweeping changes over just a few years and it must be willing in the future to make sweeping changes again if we require them. Even though we've worked very hard putting our ASB model together, we know that we will find problems in the future as we get deeper into the internal workings of it. Therefore, we need the assurance that the government will continue to work closely with us and make changes as needed in the future. Again, if the government is not committed to this type of flexibility, they should not be transferring the services. The bottom line is, we're learning as we go and we have to have the flexibility to change as we go. Legislation that's put out today might have to be changed tomorrow or next month. That's just a reality.
Using the Kenora district as an example, we have a huge unincorporated area which realistically might not become part of an incorporated community. There are some areas that have become incorporated and one of the remarks made is, "Maybe we made a mistake." As different models have materialized over the last couple of years, it has made all of us take another look at where we're headed. Perhaps the ASB might be the best model of governance for the majority of the unincorporated. We're not really sure. What we are sure of is that the ASB must be given the flexibility to tax for services provided or available to the unincorporated and any future services either downloaded or transferred to municipal responsibility.
There is a fear by many of us in NOMA of this developing into a county type of government. This is not the process we started, nor is it where we want to end up. We see it as a modified upper tier and staff in existing municipalities will do tax collection and administration of the district-wide services. If the ASB becomes the administrator for all local roads boards, say in the Kenora district, this could lead us towards a county style of government. Local people in each location who know their needs and are on a volunteer basis run these local boards and in most cases we might not want to be involved.
Each ASB should have that option in their model of governance. For instance, Kenora and Dryden will continue managing their own local services without any input from the ASB. The area services board will be responsible for district services only. Therefore, it is probably just as practical that the unincorporated areas do the same. The same flexibility should be given for optional services such as economic development, airport services, land use planning, waste management etc. Some areas might have a wider variety of optional services than others might and therefore flexibility again becomes a big issue. Again this would depend on where it is in the north. That's why I'm saying with area services boards, one model doesn't fit all. It might be different here than it is in the Geraldton area or Thunder Bay district.
As we all know, down the road there will be another round of transfers of responsibilities to municipalities as the second half of the education tax comes off the residential tax bill. We believe the Northern Services Improvement Act should be flexible enough to be able to include this without having to go back to the drawing board and draft another new act.
Municipal leaders in the north believe that area services boards are a step in the right direction for better service delivery, quicker response to needed change, homemade solutions, local control of local boards and agencies, elimination of overlap and duplication of services, and, as time goes on, the possible consolidation of numerous boards. Again this is from the Kenora area perspective, looking down the road at where we see it ending up. This might not be the same model for another area services board somewhere else in the province.
The government must not lose sight of the fact that all services in the north are more expensive to provide and deliver because of our huge geographic size and low population. Therefore, some type of reinvestment fund or transfer payments must remain in place to keep us on a level playing field with our friends in the south. Unless we get control of some of our natural resource revenues, we do not have enough local revenue to support all of our services.
Provincial averaging is one avenue to pursue, as all costs in the north are much higher than the provincial average. One good example is the cost of policing. In the Kenora district it was $711 per household, with the provincial average being $252.
I think if we take a look at social housing, child care or any one of them, especially in the Kenora district, it appears that the Kenora district is generally higher than the rest, probably because we're one third of the land mass and have a population of only about 60,000 people. It doesn't matter how you look at it, it's going to cost more money. If this is strictly a downloading exercise to put the costs on the areas where they're incurred, the reality is that we'd basically be a Third World state if we had to pay the full cost. It's just not feasible unless there is some type of revenue passed down from our natural resources, whether it be mining, forestry or whatever it might be.
The bottom line is, the provincial average is something that we've brought up before and I think it's something the government might have to look at in the future as reinvestment funds change and we take a different approach to the way we're going to fund and make up the differences between the north and other parts of the province.
There's one other thing on the act itself. Currently, there's no mechanism in Bill 12 for the conversion of a DSSAB into an area services board. Provision for this conversion should be included in Bill 12 as the area services board -- we're already there in the Kenora district. When we said we needed this legislation, I think it was going to come in in January last year and it didn't come in. We don't want to come to January 1999 and be held up again and be in a position where we have to go another year to get our area services boards in place.
Mr Jeff Port: I only want to make one supplementary comment. Mr Spina was here a number of months ago and I guess I made that comment directly to him, and I'd like to make it to the MPPs here today. I have only one caution on Bill 12, and I guess we've had some real first-hand experience with this because in the Kenora district we believe we were first out of the gate and had an opportunity to draft one of the first proposals that a lot of this legislation came out of. We were very careful and very cautious around limiting the other types of services that you would want to deliver through an area services board. We had a lot of debate around the table and we ended up limiting it to what you would call the core services in Bill 12. There are other optional services there.
My only fear is if they're all left in, while it does add flexibility -- I think that has some merit and you should consider that -- at the same time there is the opportunity or the pressure for, say, areas outside municipalities to pull those services into what you would call the upper tier. To my mind, in some of the briefing notes I've prepared for the elected officials in our area, in a sense you really haven't created anything greatly unlike a region or a county. If we keep coming back, what you'll hear again and again is, "We don't want another one of those." It's been proven that they're a difficulty because what you've done is then built in overlap and duplications. You've got two levels of governance competing or attempting to deliver the same service and we're right back into the county or the regional government bashing heads against municipalities.
We had that discussion in the Kenora district. That's why, even in our proposal that was prepared to go forward under what was Bill 174, we had limited it to the core services. I only throw that out as a caution. We don't want to go out and create problems that, let's face it, municipalities, counties and regions in southern Ontario have been trying to sort out through the restructuring process over the last two years. Let's not go out and build it into a new piece of legislation.
Mr Miclash: Dave, I remember when you were down in Queen's Park and lobbying for those hearings to come into the northwest. As I indicated earlier, I'm certainly happy that the committee has travelled into this region to hear about some of the aspects that we will be facing throughout the northwest.
This morning we heard from the reeve of Atikokan. He had indicated that the Atikokan costs were going to be up $121,000 because of the dumping or the downloading of government services. As we know, part of the purpose of Bill 12 is to deal with some of the downloading of services. What are you finding in the municipality of Jaffray Melick in terms of your actual costs, in terms of the downloading of services on to that municipality?
Mr Canfield: The actual cost is not a great concern because the bottom line is that we were given a 1.7% saving and anything above that will be picked up by the community reinvestment fund, whether they intend to or not. Those were the guidelines, sworn to by the Premier's pinky finger, and we plan on holding him to it. Right off hand I can't tell you the exact amount. I think our shortfall in the tri-municipal area was around $3.7 million or something like that.
Mr Port: Yes, when we did our first cut, before we knew that there would be a community reinvestment fund to pick up the balance and we had taken a quick cut at the numbers with the clerks and the treasurers in Kenora, Keewatin and Jaffray Melick, initially we were looking at about a $3.9-million shortfall.
Mr Miclash: I think one of the main concerns of municipal leaders as we travel throughout the north is that these funds have been slated for the next few years, a portion of the fund, as you know. My question is, what happens after the funds have dried up after those two years? That would be after another election. Somebody who would be a critic would suggest that the term of the government -- I'm just asking you, Dave, as a municipal leader, what do you see happening once the reinvestment funds have run their two-year period?
Mr Canfield: This is why in my last paragraph there is the fact that we asked for clarification on that, why it didn't go beyond that. They said, "In two years we'll revisit and come up with another solution." The bottom line is that the money has to continue to flow, whether it comes through the community reinvestment fund or whether it's a reinvestment that comes out of revenues. That's why I said revenues in the north, say, from our mining, our lumber industries and stuff like that -- to us, it's immaterial where the money comes from. We just want a fair shake and we want the money that is owing to us.
If the government decides to do a revenue-sharing thing, maybe that's a formula, I don't know. The bottom line is that we're $3.9 million short in Kenora, Keewatin and Jaffray Melick. Throughout the whole district, you're going to be millions short. As I said before, because of the high cost of the delivery of service, especially in the Kenora district and all of NOMA, our costs are going to be higher. The government can't lose sight of that and we won't allow them to lose sight of that. Something has to be in place in two years.
Mr Len Wood: On the revenue-neutral, there have been commitments made by the Premier that this will be revenue-neutral and yet we know from what we're hearing in presentations and what people are talking to the media about that it's not revenue-neutral. An example there is, why would people in southern Ontario only be billed $252 for OPP policing and in Kenora area it's $711? That's at least three times more. A lot of the things are exactly that, three times the cost of doing business in the north to what they are in southern Ontario. With all of the downloading since Bill 26, the bully bill that was brought in, and all of the other downloading, if there were no grants, what would your tax situation be? You'd have to double or triple taxes?
Mr Canfield: If there were no subsidies at all, policing -- as you know, we're going to pay $90 per household this year and maybe next year. After that, nobody really knows. Again, a decision has been made. If we had to pay the actual costs, our taxes would probably more than double. Actually we just had a meeting this morning with contract policing and they said, "Throw that $711 out the window; we've got a different formula now, a different way of approaching it."
The bottom line is it doesn't matter how you approach it and it doesn't matter how you look at it, it's going to be more expensive in the north. I've always been in favour of provincial averaging, because the provincial average for OPP policing is $252. I believe it's where we should be headed, and not necessarily just policing. Social housing, I don't care what you pick up, is going to be more in the north.
Mr Len Wood: Eighty per cent or more of the land mass of Ontario is in northern Ontario. There are ways of equalizing. A bottle of liquor or a case of beer is the same price in Kenora as it is in any other place in the province. The transportation of new vehicles is equalized. If you pay $700 in Kapuskasing or Barrie, you pay the same in Kenora. There are ways of equalizing it.
We know from some of the comments that were made during the last election that have continued since that the ultimate goal is to create regional government or county government in northern Ontario. It'll all be tied to the five or six major cities, the closest ones. That's the ultimate goal, to eliminate 50% of the municipalities in Ontario. In the north it's a different model. Bill 12 is just the first step in that direction. You're saying you don't think that system will work?
Mr Canfield: That's not the system we're looking at. We're not interested in a county-style system, as I've stated here. In the short time I've been in politics I've never understood why you had to deliver services at two levels. That's why we're calling it a partial upper tier, a modified upper tier, however you want to put it, or an area services board. I'm going to give a model, and I might get shot in the back while I sit here, but in the Kenora district we blocked out as one avenue we've looked at four blocks or four megacities. The area's just too huge. It's not realistic. The people aren't ready for it.
Those four blocks, though, might be an area where, say, around Kenora, Kenora would supply the service; in the Dryden area, they would supply the service; in Red Lake, they would supply it; and in Sioux Lookout north, they would supply it. I wish I had the map here. That might be an avenue. The bottom line is we have no intention of setting up an area services board that's going to be loaded with bureaucracy. In the Kenora district, our intent is to have the area services board as minimal as possible, basically an administrator and an assistant, and everything else would be contracted to the existing municipalities.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much for your presentation. First of all, I want to commend you on the presentation. Indeed, you are right in your opening part of the presentation that this isn't a document that was created by and at the wishes or the suggestion of the minister but in fact it was created based on the information that the minister and the ministry gathered from the people in the north who were going to be affected by this legislation. Save and except for obviously some technical things that would be in the legislation that may or may not require some changes to meet the total needs, I think it does very closely reflect what was presented to the government over the last quite a number of months -- maybe we can even say years -- to put this together. I commend you for coming forward and pointing that out, that this will indeed be good for government in northern Ontario.
You brought up a couple of items. One was to put something in the legislation to eliminate the DSSABs if in fact you choose to take the model of area services board. The legislation puts in place the process that as you come forward with your chosen option for an area services board, how that would be structured and how that would be set up would also include that you wanted to eliminate the social services board, that no municipality can have both in the same jurisdiction. The legislation would not necessarily require eliminating that, because the process of you putting forward your proposals would automatically eliminate the DSSAB. I just wanted to point that out.
The other one, I think you mentioned the issue of as time goes on, times change and services change and you may want to deliver more services through the area services board than the core programs. In fact I think the legislation deals with that, to say that the minister can, by regulation, add services that would be required. If in the future there were some changes made that there were more services going to be provided by local government than what were the core services for the board at that time, they could be added. It could be a local decision whether you wanted to add them to the delivery at your municipal level or whether you wanted to add them to the services board.
The last item in the presentation I think relates to some of the comments from Mr Wood about the cost of policing. To make sure that at least those of us gathered here understand, the community reinvestment fund, particularly as it relates to policing, was based on the fact that every municipality in the province would pay the first $90 -- that's in the north, it's in the south, it's in the east and it's in the west -- per household on their municipal levy and then whatever the difference was between that and what the OPP was presently expending in that municipality would be picked up by the community reinvestment fund, and that is the end result. Presently, your municipality would not be paying more for policing than my municipality in southern Ontario, which incidentally, prior to these changes, was also policed by the OPP. We pick up the first $90 and you pick up the first $90 and the community reinvestment fund picks up the difference.
I just wanted to point out that the difference in the averages of policing is the difference in what the province is paying in the community reinvestment fund, not what the municipal taxpayers will be paying in their municipal levy.
Mr Canfield: If I could reply to that really quickly, I used policing as an example because it's kind of a stand-in-your-face example. The bottom line is that we do have the fear that subsidy could change or go up. In all fairness, a lot of communities have paid for policing in the province and some haven't. If we're going to be fair, the bottom line is that fair to me is $252 if that subsidy disappears, not $711 or $650 or $920 in another part of the province. The bottom line is that it has to be fair, and fair is $252.
I made this argument in Toronto before. The fact is that this province contributes about $15 billion more to federal revenues than we get back. We basically support the rest of the provinces in this country, or a lot of the poorer provinces in this country, and we have to do the same for our own people if we're going to do it for the rest of the country.
The Vice-Chair: I'd like to call on Pete Sarsfield, the medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit. Good afternoon and welcome to the standing committee on general government. As you know, you have 20 minutes in which to make your presentation and you may use all or part of that. If there is time we'll have questions then from the caucuses.
I'm the medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit, as you know. I don't know if you're familiar with the professional jargon. That means I'm a physician who is a specialist in public health. I'm the doc involved with public health for northwestern Ontario from Ignace to the Manitoba border, just to set it up. There's also a public health unit in Thunder Bay which is involved with the other part of northwestern Ontario. The comments I'll make are mainly regarding the area I work with, Ignace to the Manitoba border. Ignace, Atikokan, Pickle Lake -- it's a wavy line.
I'm assuming from some of the things I've received from my colleagues that you have heard and will be hearing from public health in other parts. From what I've been reading, almost all are in opposition to the inclusion of public health in this. I think there are reasons for this, both local and practical, and also in history. Within the time limits, I would like to outline a few of those.
The conclusion I have, though, may be somewhat -- and as was mentioned by Dave, the risk of getting shot in the back. My being shot would be more from afar I think, from the people I work with in public health, medical officers of health mostly -- this is a generalization -- who feel that when you put the mouse, which is public health, in any larger form, be it with hospitals, which is the elephant that public health has feared for decades, if not centuries, or other types of monoliths such as area services boards, you're going to lose in public health because public health is a cousin which is weak, the country cousin etc. I can use metaphors that will drive you nuts, but it ends up that it's a loss for public health. I'd like to go through the concerns.
If you're wondering why I'm starting at the end, it's that I have ambivalence in this. I have personal and professional ambivalence; I'm not sure I can separate the two. That is, all of my working life, the last 30 years as a doc, I have believed and continued to believe, in the face of some adversity, in local control. Local control, which I think area services boards have the potential to offer, is more responsive to the needs of the local people. That's the way I worked when I lived in Nova Scotia -- I'm from the Maritimes. It's the way I've worked in Labrador, the Northwest Territories, northern Manitoba and now in northwestern Ontario. My ambivalence is I see the results of some of that going in opposition to the services which I'm involved with, which are public health. So that's the intro.
You can get 100 different things people mean by "public health" when they use the phrase. Let me first tell you what I mean by it. If you get 100 other people, you'll have 99 other ones. What I mean by public health is very straightforward. Those in the room with me who have worked here have heard this a few more times so you may see them reaching for their Gravol with several of these things, but you haven't heard it before so consider yourself blessed.
Public health: I made it very simple, at least in the outline. It would be a two-armed beast. The expense part in this area makes it a beast. One would be promotion of health, promotion of wellbeing. General things: housing, welfare, peace, the general conditions that make us happy, comfortable, secure when we wake up in the morning and when we go to bed at night.
Public health services in Canada are involved with those two arms. In other words, public health is looking at the future with both of those. It's not immediate, it's not the treatment of illness. I was a family doc for about 15 years. I understand and have respect for the treatment of illness. I have a couple of kids. I hope if they get sick that somebody is there to treat them. I also hope that the society -- us --has the wisdom, the vision, to prevent them getting sick in the first place, and that's what I'm here arguing for. That's what I'm concerned about.
Public health in Canada -- let's just leave it out of the western world for a minute. In Canada public health has been insistent on, and has also relied on, a separation from the rest of health care. That separation varies from province to province, from region to region. We haven't got time to go into it, but just take it as a given, please, that public health relies on being separate from care of illness, from the hospital up the hill, so to speak. Historically in Canada -- the western world in general, but let's stick to Canada -- when you put public health in with other, more acute services, public health -- because public health is aiming at the future, it's prevention, it isn't sexy, it isn't immediate -- loses.
A very relevant example, relevant to the funding, relative to the politics that we're discussing here now: In 1974, the federal government brought out a document entitled New Perspectives on the Health of Canadians. It's been extremely influential internationally, not so much in Canada, a classic thing in Canada: It's more acceptable outside the country than in. It was authored -- at least the title on the page is Marc Lalonde. He didn't write a word of it, but civil servants did. It's another story.
In that, two key points. Summarizing this is tricky. Two points that I want to emphasize -- let's put it that way -- are, first, the health of us is not the result of the care of illness. It's something you need, but that's one of the key things. They made the point in this very clearly. It was seen as revolutionary then that the biology of us -- the chromosomes, how we're set up -- the environment we live in, all those things I mentioned before -- housing, food etc -- our lifestyles -- whether this is water or whisky etc -- and health care influence health. In 1974 that was seen as being a bit of a revolutionary stretch, so he didn't emphasize what has been emphasized since, that health care is last and least in those four.
I do this stuff for a living, so this is me flogging other people. This is saying that if you want health of the public, you have to get at environment, at lifestyle, at biology as you can influence it, and at health care services. They weave; they interact. You need them all.
This book is only about 110 pages. It's very interesting. It gets quoted widely still in the States, where I'm in and out a bit. He lamented the fact that if you look at public health -- and once again, public health is prevention of illness and promotion of health. If you look at those at that point, 1974, five cents on the buck, the health care dollar, was being spent on public health. So 95% on treatment, chronic or acute, mostly acute; five cents on public health. There's something wrong here, logically. It doesn't make common sense, to coin a phrase.
Cut ahead almost 25 years. In 1998 in Canada, and Ontario fits in with this average, we're down to about three cents on the health care dollar for prevention. I'm 54. I'm sweating this less than I'm sweating it for my daughters, who are 20. They're both 20; they're twins. I'm sweating it for them because the chances of doing the prevention of cancers, heart disease and things that are apt to kill them are less now, expenditure-wise, than they were when I was their age. We have a falling investment.
In northwestern Ontario we are spending -- I can document this until your axles break -- approximately 2%, and falling, of the health care dollar, health care expenditures, on public health. To give you numbers -- and I can document these for now, cross my heart using my right hand -- approximately $325 million spent on health care in this region, Ignace to the Manitoba border, including the federal expenditures; about $6 million, including federal, on public health, and that's falling.
I was, of the Medical Officer of Health crowd in Ontario, one of the only supporters of the handover -- download, dump, whatever, the verb of your choice -- to municipalities of public health, because I believe in local control. I think it's extremely important that in public health services I answer to Mayor Canfield, who is sitting in his seat, rather than some dude down in southwestern -- the obvious.
However, the result has been, because the municipalities do not have the money -- we are expensive, as he pointed out very plainly. We are expensive to run, not because we're inefficient, I might hasten to defensively add, but because of geography and small population and growing demands, both public pressures and illness-wise. So the municipalities have rallied to reduce our funding or say, "Please, province, take us back."
I'm awash in ambivalence about this. In terms of my job and the staff who report to me -- we have about 100 staff, 13 offices and a $5-million payroll; we're small -- the best thing to happen to us in terms of ensuring our viability to keep doing what we're trying to do well, to promote the health and prevent illness in folks here, would be either a federal takeover of public health across the country, which is not my idea, it's being promoted across Canada, because public health is in retreat, or back to the province and say, "Province, it's just beyond municipal ability to fund this, at least in an equitable way, an evenly spread way." I am, cross my heart, linking this with the area services board. You'll see how I did that in the last comment.
Basically, to cut to the chase and to get rid of the history and stuff, I have personal respect, possibly support, for the idea of an area services board if -- the key word in the sentence being "if" -- it can somehow be written in that those things that are more vulnerable, such as the non-acute services leading to future returns, ie, not within the life of a government -- no way public health provides returns within four to 20 years. It doesn't happen. If somebody wants to prevent a cancer of the breast in my daughters, they'd better start doing something now, really soon. If it could be shown to me that the municipalities were going to be supported in provision of public health services in the area, and then I -- I and staff, it's the royal "I," it's "we" -- have to present to the municipalities our promotion-of-health programs and prevention-of-disease programs in a way that makes sense to the municipalities, fine and dandy. That's the way it should be. If I, either because of malignant personality or because of inefficient programs or whatever, can't do that, then they and you and the communities need a new medical officer of health and staff etc. That has not been the case.
If, however, we can't do efficient programming because the municipalities haven't got the money to do it, simply do not have the funds, that is totally unfair to the people of the region. As I read -- and I've read them -- area services board proposals etc, that inequity is not going to be altered, except downhill, by area services boards. We now have one health unit from Ignace to the Manitoba border. As I hear it, that runs the risk of being fragmented further. The costs will go up. I do this stuff for a living. The costs will go up, trust me.
We are already fragmented from the federal service of public health. Public health services right now for first nations are being done primarily by medical services of the federal government. We do some, 5% to 10% of our work, that's all, a small amount. So we're talking further fragmentation. We're talking increase in costs. I don't see this as improvement. I read the title and the subtitle of the act. I don't see this as improvement, but perhaps I'm just becoming cynical.
What I would suggest is what was suggested in the presentation before: enhanced funding. In order for the municipalities to offer a level of service, at the moment, with our current services, it costs every municipality in the area $64.36 a head. We are meeting right now approximately 80% of the mandatory programs. We're breaking the law every day. We're not providing mandatory programs. I have friends and colleagues both who do my job in southern Ontario and, quelle surprise, they are able to provide mandatory programs without charging their municipalities $64.36.
The municipalities who look me in the eye and say, "We can't afford you," have got a point. I have fought them tooth and nail on this, because if I don't do that, I'm not doing my job. I'm not protecting the health of the public and I'm not protecting the staff I work for. But I've got some sympathy. I hope they're not listening. I have sympathy for them in terms of the funding. If they, you, we want to provide mandatory programs, it's going to cost the municipalities in this area $90 a head. That's strictly because of geography and the size of population. We have a very lean administrative outfit, very efficient.
If it can be shown to me and to the other MOHs you're going to be hearing from, other folks in public health, that area services boards will enhance either funding or somehow service, fine, I'm all for it philosophically, on a reflex. You're not in an area where there's a lot of duplication. If we don't do the service in Ignace, it don't get done, it's quite simple: Pickle Lake, somewhat Kenora, Dryden, Fort Frances, but definitely the smaller municipalities, the more needy ones.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you for your presentation. I found it very interesting. If I could just summarize without asking a question, you're saying that public health is going to go down the tube; that unless we find a better way of either getting it into the federal level, the provincial level, or under the unorganized areas and the municipalities controlling public health care, it's doomed.
Dr Sarsfield: It pains me to be fair to the Ontario government right now, but to be fair to Ontario, it's not only in Ontario that this is happening. It's happening across the country, in some areas more than others. Public health is in retreat. So what we're saying, those of us who have anybody we love, let alone our own selves, is that we have actually given up on prevention of illness and promotion of health. This is happening across the country. People are leaving public health. People with training and experience like mine and others are leaving in droves, big time.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much for your presentation. At the end of your presentation you suggested that if Bill 12 in fact enhances public health, you would support the principle. I guess I would just suggest to you, away from the fact as to who was the total funder of health -- that's not the issue that's in Bill 12. I think it's an issue that could stand considerable debate.
Would you not suggest, on the basis of your organization, that it will be easier and more likely to be looking at public health for what it is if you deal with an area services board with representatives from the whole area but one body that is responsible for the public health of the whole area, rather than going to whatever number of municipalities you presently have to deal with individually to get the funding for the public health? In that way, would you not see this as a benefit to the public health function in the district?
Dr Sarsfield: It's a partial yes. I'm with you, but it's a partial yes. Right now, we have 22 municipalities that we serve, so there is a lot of discussion, shall we say. It's mostly fun, but not always.
Right now, we have a board of health whose primary interest is the health of the public. That's their interest. They're made up mostly of representatives from the municipalities, but when they walk into the meeting every month, it's public health. Area services boards will have multiple things. So this is the mouse-elephant thing that I was getting at before. All of a sudden you will be public health, which is non-acute by definition, in with other services which are acute, so you have the tyranny of the acute.
If it is just a ploy, accidental or purposeful -- it's not a shot, and I don't mean your question -- if the whole thing is a ploy to simply reduce by the watering-down effect, then public health will be easier to not hear from when it's item 12 on an agenda.
Mr Hardeman indicated earlier on about the consultation that went on before the drafting of the bill. Can you tell us about the consultation you might have had, you or your staff, with the government in terms of the drafting of this? Can you tell us about the consultation you or your staff might have had with the government in terms of the drafting of this bill?
Dr Sarsfield: It might be that I need to get out more, but I/we weren't asked. It could be that it went through the ministry, it could be that it went through ALPHA, the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, or the OMA, I don't know. We didn't. I've been scrambling to get up to speed on it so I could do this.
Mr Miclash: We have certainly watched that. I noted your frustration as well as the frustrations of the municipalities that you deal with in terms of that. I think a little consultation probably would have solved a lot of those problems that we've gone through over the past year.
Dr Sarsfield: It has been the worst working year of my life in terms of actually fighting with municipalities that I have a lot of respect and affection for. That's why I'm here. I'm not here because I couldn't get a job in Winnipeg. I'm here because I want to be here. But it's been to a level of I'm very strongly considering leaving. This is no way to live a life.
Mr Sten Lif: Let me introduce myself to the committee members. My name is Sten Lif and I am the newly appointed chief administrative officer for the Kenora District Services Board. I would also like to introduce to the committee the chair of the Kenora District Services Board, Barbara Beernaerts, who is also the mayor of the township of Machin.
My presentation will be approximately five or six minutes long, after which I'm certainly prepared to answer any questions the committee may wish to ask. Copies of this presentation are available if you wish. I can have them given to you later.
First of all, on behalf of the Kenora District Services Board, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome you to Ontario's sunset country. The purpose of this brief is to encourage the provincial government to enact legislation as soon as possible to provide choice and flexibility to northern residents in the establishment of service delivery mechanisms through the establishment of area services boards. We welcome the opportunity to participate in these hearings and would make the following comments based on the contents of Bill 12, and some final thoughts on additional service requirements.
As the committee is no doubt aware, the Kenora District Municipal Association and the District of Kenora Unincorporated Ratepayers Association were the first to meet the challenge of the province of Ontario in early 1997 to prepare a proposal to establish an area services board which called for the consolidation of service delivery in northwestern Ontario. The proposal put forward by the Kenora district was presented to the province in May 1997, and it became the basis for much of the content of Bill 12 and its predecessor, Bill 174, in 1997. There is therefore much of the current bill that the Kenora District Services Board agrees with. There are areas of concern regarding the proposed legislation, however, and these include subsections 38(3), 41(2), 43(5) and 59(1).
Subsection 38(3) authorizes the minister to amend an order at the request of the board or "in any other circumstances." The concern is that "in any other circumstances" is an extremely broad definition and the wording should be more precise and perhaps restrictive to circumstances that (1) were agreed to by the board and the minister or (2) where the minister deems it necessary in order to comply with another act or regulation.
Subsection 41(2), dealing with provision of additional services, should be a consensual process and not a mandatory one imposed by the minister. Only if a board wishes to provide one or more of these services should they be included in an order.
Subsection 43(5), which allows an order to provide that "a board shall not enter into an agreement for the performance of any functions related to taxation, as specified, by any person or entity," must be interpreted in a manner as not to be too restrictive. A board should be allowed to enter into an agreement regarding taxation functions, provided the integrity of the information is not compromised.
Subsection 59(1) regarding dissolution of boards where the minister deems it necessary to do so in the public interest should include specific regulations in which this drastic action would be necessary. While it is recognized that not every circumstance can be specified, nevertheless appropriate wording can be included that would provide a broad definition that can be interpreted by all concerned.
There does not appear to be any mechanism in Bill 12 -- and this was referred to by a previous speaker -- that would allow for a transfer of jurisdiction from a district social services administration board to an area services board. The Kenora District Services Board believes it is necessary to have that mechanism articulated in the bill.
A final comment would be to encourage the government to be very aware of the consequences of additional requirements to be imposed in a delivery of services now that these services will be transferred to area services boards once Bill 12 is proclaimed. By way of explanation, the government enacted several new requirements under recent amendments to the Health Protection and Promotion Act which will require extensive new financial commitments by the funding providers, those being the area taxpayers. This has created much debate and consternation between the current service provider and the municipalities, as each party attempted to comply and be fiscally responsible as the costs associated with meeting the requirements began to skyrocket.
The government must understand the ramifications of enacting new service requirements, and it should therefore consult extensively with those who will be required to foot the bill, prior to enacting such requirements. The province should provide assurances that adequate levels of funding will continue to flow to municipalities and/or area services boards. In addition, the province should be prepared to assist in the funding of any new legislated service requirements.
On a final note, the members of the Kenora District Services Board look forward to early passage of Bill 12 so we can get on with the job of ensuring that required services are delivered in a cost-effective and timely manner.
Thank you for the opportunity to make this short presentation. We can only encourage the government to get on with the enactment of the legislation and to ensure continuous adequate funding is in place.
Mr Froese: Not really questions, but actually you're part of the group that was consulted. Actually, the area services board, this bill, was brought forward because of your request. We've heard from a lot of different presenters that if you introduce this model, and you alluded to it, some of the costs may or may not go up. In your opinion, will costs dramatically go up? Do you find that there will be savings as a result of providing, or do you feel that in this area there could be savings provided by amalgamating some of the delivery services that are done now?
Mr Lif: This was much of a debate that took place when we began the process way back in February 1997. I think the Kenora district came to the conclusion that for us to be able to survive and pay the bills we had to have full control, and that we could realize some savings by amalgamating some boards and some service agencies etc. That obviously hasn't been worked out in any great detail at this point. That's basically what my function is going to be now that I've been newly appointed. But I do believe that can happen.
Mr Lif: I believe the service that will be provided certainly won't be any less than what it is now, and all things being equal, I think the service can be enhanced. It's going to take a lot of work, but that's a possibility.
Mr Miclash: Thank you very much, Sten, for your presentation. I just want to bring to the attention of the committee that you probably drove three hours to get here. It's a distance factor that many of the presenters would have faced today.
Sten, you bring forth a number of problems with four particular sections of the bill and I'm certainly looking forward to looking at those and at possible amendments when we get into our clause-by-clause on the bill. I think something you indicated as well is that with the new service requirements that are passed on from the provincial government, the funding must accompany that. That's certainly something we've been hearing a good number of times as we've actually gotten into this bill and from some of the presenters this morning, and we've heard it here already today as well, that a lot of times a lot of things are downloaded without adequate funding and you've certainly made a good argument in that area.
The dollars to assist with new legislative requirements is something I think every government must face. If they're going to make the requirements, they're certainly going to have to flow the funds to assist in those areas.
Mr Gravelle: Mr Lif, I have some concerns about some of the sections as well and I appreciate your obviously going through it and looking at it. In terms of subsection 38(3), I guess my concern is -- I'd like to hear yours -- that it seems to me that it might, the way it's written now, set up a situation where you go through the process, you basically have got it in place, and the potential exists for the minister to say, "Gee, we'd rather have you include this location." Is that a reflection of what your concern would be and how would you fix it? What would be the way you'd do it so that wouldn't be in place? Perhaps some would think that's an inappropriate power for the minister to have, but I know that's a concern I saw as well.
Mr Lif: Yes, I agree with you. Actually, I think the way to fix it is for the minister to consult with the board before any such move is ever made. The board has to agree that that's a service they want to provide before the minister will change an order to include a service that's not there.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you for your presentation. You're saying that in 1997 you worked with the government to come up with Bill 174. A lot of what was in Bill 174 carried over into Bill 12, and I'm sure that's a result of the downloading and dumping that was taking place and talking about megacity and one thing and another, and Kenora district decided they wanted to get out ahead of that and make some of their own decisions.
In general you're saying that Bill 12 is workable, but do you have any commitment that the government is going to make the amendments you say are required in sections 38, 41 and 59 so you're not left with where the minister can say that under any circumstances he can make changes to certain sections of the act, without any commitment the extra dollars are going to flow? We know, and maybe you have figures we should be aware of, that unorganized areas, for example, that are paying low taxes now are going to have to pay increased taxes; how much, we don't know.
Mr Lif: To be fair to the government, this is the first opportunity we've had to present these questions, if you will, on these four sections, so whether they are committed to doing something about it I guess will be seen.
In terms of the taxation dollars, certainly the unincorporated areas, which are a huge part of this Kenora District Services Board by the way -- we shouldn't forget that -- sat at the table. They're aware of the situation. They want to be involved because they understand that it's going to cost them more. So they want to be at the table to do it and they will have four representatives on the board.
The unincorporated communities of the north are struggling to find solutions to the shifting of services once provided by the provincial government to our local communities. Municipal structure in its present form is too complex and expensive for our sparsely populated areas. The administrative structure of municipal government is too costly and would become a burden to our taxpayers.
Our preferred solution is a local services board. Local services boards could adequately manage the services required in an area at a much reduced administrative cost. The residents of our local communities are aware of the local needs and with the powers of a local services board could respond more quickly and efficiently to these needs. A local services board could bring unity to a local area and give it a focus. This is very important to the survival of our rural districts.
I believe the local services board concept is much better at handling local issues than an area services board, because each of our areas has its own unique features. As an example, within the Kenora area itself we have areas with large numbers of transient, non-permanent residents while other areas are agriculturally based.
A local services board with its present powers and with the proposed additional powers of roads and land use planning would make it possible for our local people to take charge of local issues, provide representative government and better serve the local residents. Local services boards would assume the same taxing powers that local roads boards have at present.
To close, I therefore urge the provincial government to set in place the necessary legislation to enable unincorporated areas to form local services boards with the additional powers to control roads and land use planning.
You talk about some unique features of your areas and how a preferred solution would be a local services board. Maybe you could elaborate to the committee just a little bit more about the size, number of people and location and some of the uniqueness you're referring to in terms of when you talk about this area of the province.
Mr Wall: The difference from one area of the Kenora district to the other is the big thing and we have vast areas in between the settled areas. Particularly for road and fire protection it could be handled much better by the people who live right in each particular area.
Mr Miclash: I guess that's what I'm getting at when I ask for size and number of people. Again, I go back to your area of northwestern Ontario. You're talking about a fairly rural district and a very, very small population, where you have the local volunteer fire department and people mainly helping each other, more so than you'd find in other communities. I just wanted to point that out to the committee as being one of the unique features you would face in your region.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you for your presentation. Is the area that you're representing now on the restructuring committee going to be part of the area services board, the Kenora district you're talking about right now?
Mr Wall: I believe the core services, the services the province has been providing, can be handled on an area services situation very well. But I feel that roads and fire protection and probably land use would be much better handled by the local people where the service is being rendered.
Mr Len Wood: I know on a lot of roads boards and local services boards everything is done on a volunteer basis. If you want the dump pushed back, somebody jumps on the tractor and does it. If you want the road plowed or graded, somebody gets it done. There's no cost or duplication, no saving by eliminating a certain roads board or whatever. There is no saving by getting rid of that.
Mr Wall: We did think that possibly if the roads boards were put into a local services board and became part of a local services board, all the roads boards would become one in a given area. For example, I'm from Oxdrift and the area we'd be talking about would be the Oxdrift area, 10 or a dozen townships, which would take the place of 10 or a dozen roads boards.
Mr Wall: Actually, the area around Ignace is one area and the area around Dryden is more of the area where I come from. Then you'd have to go again to get to an area around Kenora and up to Sioux Lookout or Red Lake, but they're all divided. These areas are all divided by distances, where there's basically no population at all.
Mr Len Wood: It's kind of interesting that you don't have those figures because we've been told for the last year and a half that there's been public consultation, that the government has had the parliamentary assistant and different people up and they've talked to all the people in these areas when they were getting ready for Bill 12, but you haven't heard about it.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much, Mr Wall, for your presentation. Just to clarify what Mr Wood has been talking about and what the cost of these services presently are in the area that you're speaking for, I presume from your presentation that in fact you're talking about an unorganized area?
Mr Hardeman: I'm not suggesting, Mr Wood, that it should or shouldn't. I'm just suggesting that the costs of those services have not been set over to the unorganized and there isn't presently a structure to deal with those issues. Again, this is not a negative comment to the unorganized, this is just to make sure that we all understand that we're talking with the people who are speaking for organized municipalities. It's a realignment of services and for a lot of services which were jointly funded and delivered in the unorganized that's not the case. They're provincially funded.
I find it an interesting analogy that you put in your presentation. You make very strong representation that you believe in the quality and the effectiveness of local services boards to provide local services. Would it not also hold true, then, that the area services boards, on the same premise as local services boards, provide those services that cannot be provided at the very local level such as the long-term care, the public housing, the land ambulance that you spoke of, the policing services that cannot be done at the local level, and there should be the ability to set up area services boards that could operate as efficiently and effectively as your local services board for a more regionalized service? Does that not correlate to be the same thing?
Mr Wall: Yes. Part of my thinking is that those services you mentioned should be handled by an area services board, I believe that, such as policing and homes for the aged etc. But I feel the local situations like roads and fire departments should be handled by the local people.
Mr Hardeman: To make sure that we all understand, the model that's suggested in Bill 12 for area services boards deals with and recognizes the ability not only to maintain the present local services boards but to create new ones to deal with those local services so we would not require another municipal government in there to deal with the local services. If the area decided to put in an area services board, from that analysis, then, you'd be quite comfortable with the fact that those regional services that you talked about should be delivered by an area services board?
Mr Roger Valley: Thank you very much. I'm Roger Valley, the mayor of Dryden. I'm also the president of the KDMA, the Kenora District Municipal Association. I have with me John Callan, the CAO for Dryden, who has helped with this presentation.
Before I start the formal presentation, I'd just like to make a few comments. We've got so many organizations around here I have trouble with some of them. The Kenora District Services Board -- I sit on the transition team -- became aware of the fact that this committee might not come to Kenora. It fell to me to phone and try and get you to come here because we were a large part of Bill 174 and are a large part of Bill 12 now. We're very happy that you're here because we feel we have a lot of ownership here and we needed you to be here to hear us. With that, I'll start the presentation.
As president of the Kenora District Municipal Association, I am pleased to extend greetings on behalf of the citizens of this great part of Ontario. I'm particularly pleased the committee chose to travel to Kenora, for it all too often seems we are a forgotten part of Ontario.
Let me assure the committee from the outset, the Kenora District Municipal Association is supportive of the intent of Bill 12. You may know that it was this association which was very quick off the starting block in identifying the need for this legislation, in developing a proposal for consideration by ministers Leach and Hodgson, and I am informed that Bill 12 was largely patterned after the document developed by our association. We take some measure of pride in that. However, as with most pieces of legislation, we see some flaws. Items that were not included in our proposal are included and we find some of these disturbing.
This then is our submission to you. It is offered by way of constructive criticism, and I hope the committee will take my comments as such and will, as a result, recommend changes to the bill which will improve it. It falls to me to point out a lot of the little technical glitches that we have come up with. We want this to be perfect. We realize it won't be, but we're hoping we can get as close as possible.
Section 4 provides that a local services board may be given responsibility for roads within the board's area. First a comment about local services boards: We believe a moratorium should be placed on creating any new LSBs. LSBs are not the answer compared with local government, and the creation of new or the continuation of existing LSBs and expanding their service responsibilities only serves to stand in the way of restructured local government.
There is one positive aspect of giving LSBs authority over roads. There will be a resulting collapse of duplication in administration of local roads boards. The committee is reminded to consider that the more local services handed to LSBs the less is the incentive to join in a partnership with neighbouring municipalities to form larger, more efficient municipal organizations. This comment also applies to inclusion of fire services being handed to LSBs.
Subsection 37(3) provides for a three-year limit on proposals. There should be no moratorium placed on submission of proposals. At the very least, there should be provision for amended proposals in order that boundaries could change at the initiative of an ASB or that amalgamations with neighbouring ASBs could take place in whole or in part.
Clause 38(1)(e) provides for the designation by the minister of additional services that the board shall provide. There needs to be provision such that this is not done unilaterally but in consultation with and with the agreement of the ASBs. Some of this you have heard before, but we feel it's important to repeat it.
Clause 38(1)(g) provides for service delivery agencies and the dissolution of a service delivery agency, except a municipality. "Service delivery agency" is not defined in Bill 12. Are we to assume, for example, that the term includes non-profit housing corporations?
Subsection 40(8) provides for the public having access to the minutes of any meeting held by distance communication and not having been practical to conduct an open meeting. The public/media should not be excluded from any open meetings as they miss the significance of any debate on an issue, and this aspect of any meeting is not adequately reflected in any minutes.
Paragraph 41(1)3 provides for public health being a core service of ASBs. So far in the process, the Ministry of Health has shown a great reluctance to hand the reins of public health over to the KDSB. Who will have the final say in this?
Paragraph 41(1)6 provides for homes for the aged being a core service of ASBs. We believe that homes for the aged are included in Bill 12 by default. At one time our association believed that homes for the aged were to be part of the transfer of services under Who Does What. We included this in our original proposal. We believe, as a result, responsibility for homes for the aged was included in this draft legislation.
Subsection 41(2) provides for the additional services becoming the responsibility of ASBs by order. This section is too broad in scope. Some ASBs may want responsibility for some or all of these services, but they should only be passed on to the LSBs with their express approval. We are concerned these services will be taken away from municipalities which may not wish to relinquish authority for providing that service. There needs to be reference in the legislation to allow for municipal agreement on this.
Subsection 41(8) provides for police services to be the responsibility of the ASBs, an optional service. Clause (b) provides that subsection 4(l) of the Police Services Act does not apply to any municipality in the board area. This means that an individual municipality cannot provide its own police service. We need to maintain flexibility around police services. For example, the ASB should be in a position to provide police service in the whole area, except where a municipal police service exists. The local municipality with a police service needs to determine for itself how it will deliver the service. The option to contract with the ASBs needs to be included.
Subsection 43(5) provides that an order may provide that an ASB shall not enter into an agreement for the performance of any functions related to taxation. We need to maintain flexibility in this area or we will see a renewed duplication of systems already in place. ASBs must have the options available to them, not simply be dictated to.
Subsection 44(l) provides that the apportionment formula will be established by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Some services are shared on weighted assessments; others, like public health, are shared on a per capita basis. The ASBs need to determine for themselves the most appropriate funding formula in their jurisdictions.
Subsection 44(3) provides that the Minister of Finance shall levy and collect the amounts required for the board's purposes from the unincorporated areas through the provincial land tax, the PLT. The matter of assessment and taxation is a local issue. Ratepayers in unincorporated areas, billed by the province through provincial land tax, will not come to accept that services are provided locally. The area services board will not be as accountable to its constituents when tax bills are issued out of Toronto. At the very least, the legislation should provide an option whereby the ASBs can determine the most appropriate method to collect these taxes, and one of these options should be to have the authority to bill the taxes directly.
Subsections 48(l), 53(7) and 55(l) set out the payment schedule for municipalities and area services boards to pay their portion of the levy to the ASB and the ASB levy to local services boards. There are four payment dates. This payment schedule is too lengthy. There should be two payment dates, ie, March 31 and September 30. To leave the last payment date to December 15 in any year is far beyond that which we consider reasonable.
Subsections 48(3), 53(9) and 55(3) provide for an early payment discount should a municipality remit their required instalment early to the ASB and for the ASB remitting early to local services boards. There should be no provision to allow early payment discounts. This further disadvantages those municipalities that are not in a position to take advantage of these discounts, as their levy and the levy for all municipalities will be increased to provide for these incentives. Someone has to pay for it.
Subsection 48(5) provides for an agreement by the majority of municipalities to determine the number of instalments and their amounts and due dates. This provision is not reasonable and the determination should not be left in the hands of individual municipalities. They may well choose to adopt a schedule that would make it very difficult and expensive for the ASB to operate. The ASBs have been formed to make decisions and this decision should be left to that authority.
Section 49 provides for the levy and collection of taxes in unorganized territory, requisition by province and boards among others. This section appears to be in conflict with other sections identified earlier whereby the province will collect and remit under the PLT.
Subsection 55(1) sets out the payment schedule for ASBs to pay the levy to the LSBs. There are four payment dates. Again, it's too lengthy. It should have the March 31 and September 30 dates. To leave it too late in the year is not reasonable.
Subsection 55(3) provides for early payment discounts by ASBs paying their instalments to LSBs. Again, there should be no provision to allow early payment discounts. This does not appear reasonable. When there is only one ASB and that ASB could receive an early payment discount, the LSB will have to increase their levy to pay the discount to the ASB. It doesn't make sense.
That's the end of my formal submission, and I would just like to point out a couple of things to the committee that have been pointed out previously or I have noticed when we have been working on this proposal. When it was decided these kinds of actions were going to be taken in Ontario, this part of the province came forward very quickly and said, "We are going to do this, and how are we going to do it?" That's where a lot of this stuff in Bill 174 came from.
What I have seen personally is the tremendous co-operation from totally different areas, from the unorganized and from the organized municipalities. It has actually been great working with them. To take two such totally different entities and tell them, "You have to work together and you have to design something to work together," has been very difficult. I have only pointed out a few minor things that we see, with the help of the people who worked with us, how we can make it better. The co-operation of the people living in this part of the province has been tremendous. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you for your excellent presentation. These are the types of comments that we like to hear when we are preparing amendments to legislation, and hopefully the government will formulate some of these ideas into amendments and come forward with them.
I know when we got our final briefing on Bill 174 last fall, when it died on the order paper and we weren't sure whether it was going to come forward or not, they were saying yes, they were going to make some changes to it, but it was going to become law by the end of June this year. That hasn't happened, but from all the work you people have put into it, it looks like you are really looking forward to Bill 12 becoming law, probably by the end of October, with some amendments to make it workable. If the amendments are not accepted, do you feel it will give you a hard time over the next few years?
Mr Valley: The municipal governments right now in this part of the province and many parts of the province have difficulties through assessments, through the downloading. We'd like to be as perfect as we can and we'll work with whatever we get, but these are a few minor changes we would like to see that would help us proceed with our life. Again, it has been something we've had to take on, we've had to try and design. We know we can't get it perfect ourselves, but we're trying to work on it. We'll have to work with what we receive.
Mr Len Wood: You're not alone. The municipalities in my area are just starting to get together now to figure out whether they have to do a 5%, 7% or 10% increase in property taxes as a result of all the downloading. I think there's only one municipality that doesn't have to increase its taxes as a result of the downloading that has taken place. We're late in the year and the tax bills haven't gone out yet.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentation. I would start off by saying, as you started off saying, that it's no accident that Bill 12 looks an awful lot like your proposal, which came forward from your area, in suggesting how we would deal with this issue of delivering more regionalized services in areas where we don't have local government in those regionalized areas. I would point out that it is intended to be a document that tries to implement what local government in northern Ontario has told us needed to be done.
I appreciate the comments you've made on some of the things you see are problematic that were not in your proposal. We will surely consider those for amendments or changes. Again, I would caution that some of it may be in interpretation.
One example would be where you spoke on subsection 40(8) about the open meetings, and your suggestion that all meetings should be open. I think the government would totally agree with you that all municipal meetings should be open. Minutes do not necessarily reflect the total discussion that took place at the meeting. But as you put into the legislation the provision that allows the technology to be used for teleconferencing, it becomes very difficult to have the public in on the teleconference. So if you are going to have legislation that allows that to be a council meeting or a board meeting, you have eliminated the ability of the public to be involved in that meeting. So legislatively you have to allow that to happen, and that's what that clause is meant to do, not to exclude the public from public meetings.
I think there are other areas, related to police services, where the area services board can be delegated the responsibility for policing. If we look in the Police Services Act all over the province, where police services are delegated to another body -- in southern Ontario, of course, it's the upper-tier municipality -- but where the region or the county is delegated the authority to do policing, the Police Services Act takes out the designation of the lower-tier municipalities to be responsible for policing, because the Police Services Act says municipalities that are named must provide effective and efficient policing. So if you leave that in and the area services board is given the delegation for policing, then all of a sudden we would have one body providing policing and the other body being responsible for it.
Mr Miclash: Roger and John, thank you for your presentation. Reeve Brown of Atikokan had a few problems with the special circumstances fund and he explained those problems to us this morning, where he has suggested that they were going to have an actual cost overrun of $121,000 to their municipalities in terms of the extra costs being put down to them by the province. Roger, I'm just wondering, in your municipality what did you come up with in terms of the figures, and have you had access to the funds as the government has suggested it would provide?
Mr Miclash: If I go back to a document called A Voice for the North -- that was the present Premier's election platform for 1995 -- he indicated that local governments must be made more cost-efficient in order to reduce the burden on local taxpayers. I'm just wondering if you believe that the downloading that has been imposed upon your taxpayers has actually reduced the burden on them as local taxpayers.
Mr Valley: No, I don't. This is my seventh year on council -- two terms as a councillor, first term as mayor. What I saw was that we were rapidly getting so we weren't receiving any money from the province. The restrictions put on us by the province were -- they weren't going to have a lot to say about us. The downloading of services has brought us back to the table for the CRF. That's the way it is right now. I don't like to be asking for any money or having to be dictated to, but that's the way it is right now. The fact is we're going to be looking to the province for money for the next two years that it has committed, and after that there's a gaping hole right now, and no one can tell us, naturally, because of the term of government.
In wrapping up, I would just like to thank you for your very detailed description of the problems you see in terms of something I know both of you have been involved in right from day one. I thank you for those as well.
The Vice-Chair: I know the municipality of Red Lake is here, so we'll ask the mayor, Duncan Wilson, to step into the time slot, if that's possible. Good afternoon and welcome to the standing committee. For the purposes of Hansard, I'd ask that you both introduce yourselves.
Mr Wilson: As introduced, I am Duncan Wilson, the mayor of the newly amalgamated municipality of Red Lake that became effective July 1, 1998. The council of the new municipality was elected on June 15. The municipality includes the former townships of Golden and Red Lake, the local services board of Madsen and annexed territory including the Flat Lake and Starratt-Olsen settlements. You will appreciate that the new council and administration is very busy, and we have had little time to absorb Bill 12, the fax transmittal appearing on my desk yesterday. I am moved to complain that the advance notice of this hearing was very short, and shortened further by one day last week. Councillor Larson and I were able to adjust our schedule with some difficulty, as we believe the area services board to be essential, and we did not wish to wear the tag "default" introduced to our situation by Aime Dimatteo at the February KDMA meeting in Dryden, when the area services board bill died, even though we were dressed up and ready to play. I would ask that the government of Ontario provide adequate notice to allow us scheduling and preparation.
Our ranks of the well-informed on the ASB process have been decimated by two elections seven months apart and one amalgamation, but Councillor Larson and I will do our best to reframe the Red Lake view.
The municipalities of the Kenora District Municipal Association unanimously agreed to vigorously pursue a modified upper-tier form of government at the February 1997 annual meeting in Sioux Lookout. The combination of downloading of social services and reduction of grants to the municipalities, with the threat of eliminating grants altogether, was the motivation towards this co-operative move. The proposed modified upper-tier corporation would have the power of taxation in the unorganized territories, and we would in part be masters of our own destiny, in line with government-sponsored ideology, that we are good managers who live up here and know and can deal with our needs.
The KDMA, together with DOKURA, the District of Kenora Unorganized Ratepayers Association, diligently pursued the formation of an ASB parallel to the government's perception of a DSSAB, as that would likely be approved. Items included voting power for larger municipalities, temporary funding, and votes for the unorganized were pursued to consensus. The proposal for the Kenora District Area Services Board was finalized by the end of the year.
When the ASB legislation died on the order paper in January 1998, the transition committee moved directly to make the adjustments for the DSSAB, the Kenora District Services Board. The committee is active towards being the service delivery agent for (1) child care; (2) Ontario Works; (3) public health; (4) social housing; and (5) land ambulance.
(3) Public health: We have had an interesting time, well covered by the media, with the Northwestern Health Unit since the first of this year. Notwithstanding our anomaly, the Health Protection and Promotion Act demands a higher and more rigid level of service than that provided when the province paid, with increases in staff and cost increases in the order of 15%. One can think that this is a way of providing jobs cut from elsewhere in the Ministry of Health.
(4) Social housing: This is an area where municipalities may be able to draw on experience for effective performance. Apparently the plan is such that administration will be elsewhere and we send money.
To sum up this litany of complaint, there is merely a shadow, if any, of our initial protestation to be masters of our own destiny, which would have jibed with assertions that the municipalities would be good at managing services because of our nearness to the citizens. A cursory glance at Bill 12, section 44(3), indicates that the Minister of Finance shall "levy and collect the amounts required" from the unorganized territory and remit to the board. Ability to tax was a primary aim in the KDMA proposal.
We have serious concerns for our municipal taxpayers regarding the downloading of services from the provincial government to the municipalities. Our citizens already face tremendous pressure with existing demands on their property taxes. Your government's desire to reduce the number of municipalities adversely affects our area.
We genuinely believe that the modified upper-tier form of government would have been more satisfactory for our district. Unfortunately, the provincial government did not share our opinion. Instead we are faced with a DSSAB which in many ways does not meet our needs and requirements. This vehicle for social service delivery is not of our design. Although we have reservations and concerns, we are being forced to make it work.
Core services under Bill 12: child care, Ontario Works, public health, social services, land ambulance, homes for the aged. Core services under the modified upper tier: assessment, public health, homes for the aged, social housing, land ambulance.
Additional services under Bill 12: economic development, airport, land use planning, administrative functions for the Provincial Offences Act, waste management, policing, emergency preparedness, roads and bridges and any other service designated by the minister. Under the KDMA additional services are policing and land use planning.
Two models for taxation: (a) requisition for each municipality in the amount required, and the Minister of Finance levies and collects for the unorganized. Under the KDMA, one model for taxation -- requisition for each municipality and direct taxation from the unorganized.
(b) Under Bill 12: The board to determine the tax ratios and the municipalities to collect the amounts required, the board to levy and collect amounts in the unorganized, and the province and the LSB requisition the board for the amounts required to fund the services they provide. So basically we're coming hat in hand to the government. The amount to be paid and the percentage to be paid, again no mention in the KDMA proposal.
Bill 12, the minister may dissolve the board and assume its power, or name in place of a board any person to exercise the powers and perform duties of the board and dissolve a board and its area. There's no mention of that in the KDMA proposal.
In closing, I have to say that Bill 12 as proposed is more significant and encompasses a greater range of services than we have proposed under the modified upper-tier proposal. The differences, we feel, are quite substantial, especially in the area of section 59, "Dissolution of the board."
We've heard a number of presentations on the issue of the levying of taxes in the unorganized areas. The concern is that the bill says the levying of taxes in the unorganized municipalities will be done by the Minister of Finance and he will then forward that money to the area services boards. That is in the first option. When you go to the second option, it is direct taxation for area services boards. So they will have the ability to do that. I just want to point out, at least from the government's perspective, in preparing the bill we felt it was necessary that as municipalities choose to set up the area services board, the ability to get the tax bills out -- and we have known what delays in taxing can do this year. There needed to be something to be able to carry on with the present structure so the minister could levy those taxes until the area services board was in the position to requisition those taxes directly from the taxpayers.
The other area that you expressed some concern about was the area of the minister's ability to remove the board and to appoint someone else to take over the board. I would just point out to you that that's the structure that's presently available in the Municipal Act to deal with municipalities when they can no longer operate under the reasons or the platform they were elected on, such as a five-member council where three of them resign. They no longer can function because they no longer have a quorum. The minister at a certain point in time can then declare that council unelected and appoint someone to run that municipality until a new election can be held. I think that's the same requirement that's in the act to deal with the board, that if for some reason it cannot fulfil its responsibilities, the minister or someone needs to be able to take over because the service needs to be able to be provided.
We would be prepared to hear suggestions of how that could be addressed if not that way, how you could address the fact that there is some backstop to make sure the function continues to operate even though there are some problems with the structure of the boards.
In your presentation you do a very good job of analyzing what is in Bill 12 and what was in your previous proposal for a modified upper tier. Not going over them all, do you see significant problems with the difference in the two functions, that this area services board is not getting enough responsibility or is getting too much responsibility compared to what your modified upper-tier proposal was proposing? Or do you see a reasonable resemblance of similarities there?
Mr Wilson: A good part of this is getting used to the idea. I guess one of the thoughts is waiting for the money. We've been waiting for money through this year and it's been quite a juggling act for our administration while waiting on the tax rolls. We have to analyze the tax rolls. I guess you might say this has been quite a hectic year for us.
I remember, Mr Hardeman, after our meeting with Minister Hodgson where he assumed the Madsen lawsuit responsibility, we met you two hours later and we were looking for some leeway to maybe October 1 for formation of the new municipality. You doubled the marching orders that we'd already got from Minister Hodgson and, lo and behold, we got it done.
Mr Wilson: I guess we're kind of feeling our way. We wanted the upper-tier form, and maybe this is going to take some getting used to. I'm somewhat reassured, by your description of the two items that we did have some difficulty with, that we can live with it, but we're still cautious.
We're hearing from a good number of mayors, reeves and councillors that they're having problems in figuring out the numbers when it actually comes down to the cost to the local taxpayer. I'm just wondering if you're aware of any impact studies that may have been done before Bill 12 was introduced. If so, what were they, and if not, could they have helped somewhat?
Mr Wilson: I don't recall such study as you mention. Again, we are kind of concerned as to how this mix comes out. I find this is the first time I've ever run across citizens who seem to be anxiously looking for their tax bill. That's quite a different approach from previous seasons, but I guess we're in the situation of keeping our fingers crossed.
We are now a more general municipality than we were before. Again, speaking from the side of the township of Golden, we were a very heavy industrial tax base. We now have some government buildings and so on which we are remunerated for in a different form with the combination with Red Lake. We are feeling our way, but we really want to get at running some tests through the tax rolls when we are ready.
Mr Miclash: Unlike other municipalities that have actually come up with figures, like Atikokan, as I was indicating earlier, a $121,000 shortfall in terms of what they'll be faced with this year, you're saying you don't have any actual figures in what you're going to be short?
Mr Wilson: We were to have a finance meeting last night, which had to be postponed because of an illness of one of our people. We are grappling with actually two large budgets: the township of Golden and the township of Red Lake. The Madsen local services board also have their budget. We still have to get a feel for the other half of the district's grounds. We have not been able to run test models and so on through our district. Our greatest fear is what kind of impact this may have on the residential taxpayer.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much for your presentation. Going back a number of months, I guess, quite some time now, the Premier and the cabinet ministers said all of the downloading and dumping and whatever was taking place that the province was paying for before was going to be revenue-neutral. Now we're finding out from most municipalities that I represent in northeastern Ontario and even here that it's not revenue-neutral, that there are going to have to be huge tax increases as a result of the exchange of services, what the province was paying before.
You're saying that people are anxiously looking for their tax bills to see what's on them. Do you think there will be a concern out there if the people are faced with a 4%, 5% or 7% increase in taxes as a result of paying for services that the province normally paid for before?
Mr Wilson: There is a real concern. I think we have managed to come up with some savings in the amalgamation which may help a lot on the budgets. I would just be guessing as to what the impacts might be, but certainly residential taxpayers indicate that they cannot stand a tax increase. I think certain of our business sections may be in real trouble, for instance, those with apartment complexes and that sort of thing. I think those are the people who are really sweating it now.
Mr Ken Pride: Good day. My name is Ken Pride and I am the District of Kenora Unincorporated Ratepayers Association's representative for the Lake of the Woods North area on the newly created Kenora District Services Board. I'm here today to put forward our association's thoughts and opinions on Bill 12, the Northern Services Improvement Act.
As you know, the province impacted the lives of everyone when they proceeded with their downloading of costs on the municipalities. This event caused the municipalities to look in new directions in order to make their budgets realistic for the municipal taxpayer. One of the areas they looked at was the unincorporated territory.
Our association was formed to ensure that the unincorporated ratepayers of the Kenora district would have a fair and equal say, as well as fair and equal representation, in any process that may be undertaken by the municipalities. It has been a learning experience for both the municipal and unincorporated representatives in building a working, dedicated team to help the Kenora district move forward without resentment and hard feelings being developed.
Our association and the Kenora District Municipal Association initially submitted a proposal for an area services board. We waited patiently for the province to introduce the appropriate legislation to allow the creation of the area services board. Minister Hodgson told KDMA and DOKURA representatives in May 1997 that there would be legislation in the spring of 1997. It was then delayed to the fall of 1997, then delayed again. When it was finally introduced into the Legislature for first reading in December 1997, we were relieved that the minister had come through on his commitment to get that legislation in place. You can imagine our disappointment when the legislation was allowed to die on the order table.
The province did, however, stay on its timetable to download the costs and told us to form a DSSAB, district social services administration board, to cover the costs and administration of three core services: child care, Ontario Works, and social housing. It also gave us the option of providing two additional services: public health and land ambulance. This is not what we asked for. Consequently, we adjusted our original proposal to fit the DSSAB guidelines to get us up and running. We would also like to make it known that, together with our municipal partners, we fully expect to evolve the newly approved DSSAB into an area services board when this legislation becomes law.
Our association wrote the minister and told him that we want the Northern Services Improvement Act, Bill 12, in place. When this legislation was reintroduced this spring, our association felt relief and hoped the province would follow through with its adoption of the Northern Services Improvement Act.
It is for these reasons that we are here today. Our association has held many meetings across the Kenora district during the last year and a half and we have heard many different concerns. Some of those concerns are addressed in the legislation; others are not.
One of the major concerns we have in this district is the lack of willingness by the provincial government to allow the creation of new local services boards. There are many areas that could benefit by the creation of a local services board that could handle all the roads in a specific area. This could eliminate the need for a multitude of local roads boards. In some areas, waste management is the prime concern. A new local services board in these areas could provide the answer.
Many unincorporated areas are very unwilling and in fact adamant about not wanting to be a part of an incorporated municipality. The creation of a local services board would allow all ratepayers of these areas to pay their share of the costs and still retain their independence. Our association feels that regardless of where a ratepayer chooses to live, be it adjacent to a municipality or kilometres away from the municipal environment, the ratepayers must be allowed to create a local services board if they so desire.
Our association wants the province to give full consideration to each and every application for creation of a local services board. Our association notes with some interest that public health is included in the core services that are mandatory for an area services board to provide.
As mentioned previously, in the process to establish the DSSABs in the province, public health was listed as an optional service that could be requested. The Kenora District Services Board has requested public health in their DSSAB proposal and has been rejected in that effort by the province. How does this make the inclusion of public health in the mandatory services of this legislation work when the province will not give up their control over this item?
All across our district there is a need for land use planning. We think this is probably true for the rest of the province in areas that have unincorporated populations. The delays that are faced by parties waiting for approval of their land use proposals from Toronto are intolerable. If a proposal to develop property is submitted, there is no telling how long and expensive the process may be. These delays are seriously impacting the economic development of our district.
Our association feels that land use planning should be included as a core service. This would enable each ASB area to direct land use planning in a way that best suits them, including environmental concerns.
Our association also heard from the local roads boards, local services boards, local fire teams and local road associations that they have a great concern with the collection of the levies they need and will require in order to operate. Several areas have people who do not pay their levies when they are due and as a result are freeloading on the backs of others. When they are created, the fire teams and road boards are mandated to provide the service, but there is no effective way to collect the monies needed to operate.
We see this legislation as a part of the solution. We noticed that the local roads boards are mentioned specifically in the legislation as being able to have the area services board collect funds on their behalf. There was, however, no mention of collections for local fire teams or local road associations. Our association was wondering, can the collection of fire team and local road association levies be done through the application of a special board levy, as noted in the proposed legislation?
Our association believes that if a ratepayer is a user of a service or a recipient of a mandated service, then the ratepayer must be prepared to pay for that service. Therefore, we see the special board levy as one way of providing funding for those service deliverers who are having trouble making ends meet through non-payment of levies. Our association therefore requests that the local fire teams and the local road associations be included in the group that can apply to the area services board to collect their levy.
When we discussed the budget and taxation models we noted that in model number one the province would collect the unincorporated area's share through the provincial land tax. Our association feels that if this is done, then the province should be prepared to break out the costs of what the ratepayer is actually paying for. The local ratepayer will not simply accept a bulk bill with no accounting of the services being paid for -- I think just a straight accounting of where the money's going and who is collecting it for whom.
Our association hopes that this legislation will be passed at third reading as soon as the Parliament resumes and proclaimed into law immediately after that passage. We have waited long enough and have endured enough provincial delays in the process. If the province is serious about passing off the costs of services to the Ontario ratepayer, it must also be equally prepared to divest itself of control of those costs.
Mr Miclash: Ken, thank you for your presentation. You've certainly presented us with a good perspective from your association. You talk about land use planning. It's something that we've seen a great amount of difficulty with in the area, and you and I have talked about this on many occasions.
Mr Miclash: I'm just wondering if we can put on the record your thoughts about a development which has been talked about by not only many in the area in which you live but the municipalities as well, that of course being cottage lot development and what impact that would have in terms of the unincorporated areas and the spinoffs to municipalities in the region.
Mr Pride: I have a subdivision which I had approved, with your help, and we were one of the last subdivisions which was approved before a moratorium was put on. I don't know if the rest of the members of your group are aware there's a moratorium on subdivisions in the area, and I resent this. I'm 60 years old, and I'm going to be getting a lot older every day, they tell me. Eventually I'd like to do something with my land, but in the meantime you're telling me I can't. This has a great bearing on the economic development in the area.
I have sold some of my cottage lots now. Every one has a cottage on it. They're being assessed, they're paying their taxes. They're buying their materials locally in a large amount of the cases. It's just too darned far to bring it from Manitoba. A few of them do, but most of them buy locally and that has quite an impact on our local economy. In some of the unincorporated areas a full 70% of the people are cottagers and they deserve the right to be heard just like anybody else. They've got one heck of an investment here.
Just recently we checked the assessment in the unincorporated area and it was quite a shock to some of the municipal people that the assessment in the unincorporated area that I represent pretty near approached what the municipality and the town of Kenora had. That's a sizeable assessment and I think we should be taken into consideration. Not everybody in our area wants to be part of a municipality. In fact few do, but the reality is there that we recognize, we know that we'd be part of something. The upper-tier government is a very good way.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much for your presentation. I can sympathize with you on the delays that you're talking about when a minister comes out and says, "I'm going to bring in this legislation," and then doesn't bring it in, and then brings it in in the fall and forgets to have it carried over into the next session of the Legislature and as a result the government continued with downloading and dumping and adding the extra costs on to every municipality in Ontario, which the province used to pay for before. I can see your concern: Is it going to become law after these hearings are over, when the Legislature goes back in September, or are they going to find other legislation and, as a result, we end up going into an election and Bill 12 sits there on the order paper not getting third reading.
We don't know, because there's been so much incompetence that's happened over the last year and a half where they had to have new legislation brought in to correct the old legislation that had errors in it. So this might continue for the next while, we don't know. But you're interested in seeing it become law and I hope that your dreams and wishes are fulfilled in October. Thank you very much.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, Mr Pride, for your presentation. There's a couple of quick comments. One was your comment on the first one of the two abilities to collect money to pay for services in an area services board. Of course that is where the minister would collect the taxes on behalf of the area services board and forward them to the services board, and your comment was that that should broken out to know exactly what the property taxpayer --
Mr Hardeman: Yes, it should be itemized, and I would share your concern. I read the legislation, going through the whole thing, that in fact the area services board would set its budget and it is through that setting of the budget that they would tell the minister what was needed to be levied to the individual taxpayers. That budget would then be available to every taxpayer so they would see what that would be.
Mr Pride: That would be acceptable. That's what we're looking for, something where we're not imposing something or you're not imposing the provincial land tax and increasing and no one knows where the money is going. All we're looking for there is a disaster in the unincorporated areas.
I think we've done our homework pretty well on the unincorporated areas. We've joined with our municipal partners as full partners and we helped draft a lot of this stuff that's been put forward to you people.
Mr Hardeman: We appreciate it. The other two small areas -- one I'd just like to question you on. We've had a number of presentations suggesting that land use planning should be, first of all, done by a services board in areas where we don't have municipal government, but there's been a variation. Some seem to think that should be at a local services board level and some seem to think that it should be at an area services board level. Do you have any preference? Your presentation, of course, suggests that because we're creating the ability to create area services boards, that's where it should be. But there's been some suggestion that that was too broad, that they wanted it more localized. Do you have any comments on this?
Mr Pride: The problem being that in the unincorporated areas we have no other form of government. We don't have one, unless we have the local services boards that we presently have in some areas, but they're not complete. They don't cover all the unincorporated areas, so where do we go for our approvals then? As I spoke to Frank Miclash, I went through a seven-year process trying to get approval for a subdivision and it damn near bankrupted me. I ended up with $350,000 spent out before I took a cent in. It's just not right.
Mr Hardeman: I think the government would totally agree with you that a seven-year process for any subdivision, even finding out one cannot build it -- it shouldn't take that long to make a final decision on whether you can or cannot build.
Mr Pride: Fine. If you can't do it, you can't do it. Tell us. But if we can, we should get approval within -- I'm not talking about approval in five weeks or something, but there should be a legislated amount of time where we will get an answer one way or the other.
Ms Gerry Wilson: Good afternoon. My name is Gerry Wilson. I'm the executive director of the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners' Association, which is an organization of some 3,000 families, including both seasonal and permanent residents. Our members own property within the Lake of the Woods area, some within town boundaries but largely in the unincorporated areas surrounding the tri-municipal area, Sioux Narrows, Minaki, Redditt, across the whole area around Lake of the Woods.
We have been directly involved with the District of Kenora Unincorporated Ratepayers Association, whom you just finished hearing from, since its inception in March 1997, and I serve as co-chairperson of that organization.
The Kenora District Area Services Board proposal developed by municipal and unincorporated representatives met the diverse needs of the Kenora district by putting in place a structure to assume responsibility for the downloaded services. When the expected legislation was not passed, we adjusted our proposal to fit the new guidelines, with the understanding that the DSSAB would then evolve into an area services board on the passage of the Northern Services Improvement Act, formerly Bill 174, now Bill 12.
Bill 12, when passed into law, will broaden the options of the ratepayers in the unincorporated areas. It will allow those areas outside municipal boundaries to receive and pay for services that are district-wide in nature, that is, services needed across the district whether or not you are within the town boundaries. An area too far away geographically to be part of a municipality still needs a place to take waste. Land use planning is needed across the entire district to guard against overdevelopment, particularly in recreational or cottaging areas. Policing, sewage system approvals, public health, fire protection and roads are services that ratepayers across the unincorporated areas require and for the most part are willing to pay for.
Our association requests that local services boards, road associations, roads boards and fire teams be able to collect their funds through the special board levies mentioned in the legislation. To this point, services such as fire protection and roads have been supported by voluntary contributions and user fees. Volunteers from the community have provided countless hours in delivering those services and fundraising. Local services boards, roads boards, fire teams and road associations have no effective way to collect the monies they need to operate. They've always had the manpower, but they haven't always had the dollars, and no effective way to collect them.
Our association recommends that waste management be included as a core service. The Ministry of Natural Resources landfill sites around the tri-municipal area are slated to close and there is no way to tax the residents in the area to contribute to this essential service to ensure it continues.
Our association arranged a garbage bin program for three summers to serve the needs of the large seasonal population to the west of Kenora. We have also funded a recycling program which kept truckloads of waste from filling up the government landfill sites. We arranged a yearly permit system with the goal of ensuring that the contractor would be able to keep these sites open additional hours. This combination of donations, voluntary contributions and user fees has not been sustainable. Volunteers wear out.
This would enable each area services board area to direct land use planning in a way that best suits them. It is essential that land use decisions and the implementation of these decisions be achieved by local stakeholders. This will avoid the issues, controversy and detachment inherent in decisions made by people who don't live in the local area and are not accountable to the people who have to deal with the social and economic impacts which result. It seems to us that it is counterproductive to make land use designations of crown lands, as is occurring in the Lands for Life process through the Ministry of Natural Resources, without considering the impact of private land development at the same time, or at least in a parallel process.
The Lake of the Woods District Property Owners' Association was instrumental in the creation of development controls in the Clearwater Bay and Shoal Lake areas and we serve on the Clearwater Bay Development Control Appeal Board. These guidelines for development control by way of a minister's order, which were set in place to protect the lake trout fishery, are administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Their ability to enforce the guidelines has proved to be grossly inadequate.
The other tool, to control development in the unincorporated areas, is the requirement for adequate sewage facilities. The Northwestern Health Unit does not have the necessary resources to ensure that existing sewage systems are performing adequately. Inspection programs have been non-existent for four years and their response, to the health unit inspectors, to reports of inadequate systems have not always been followed up on. The current increase in the cost of a permit to install a system from $150 to $625 could discourage compliance. Across the Kenora district, consistent standards and enforcement are needed to protect our lakes and rivers. These waterways provide the basis for a viable tourism industry and a critical quality of life component for local and seasonal residents.
Our association has funded research on alternative sewage systems, particularly the Waterloo biofilter, which, if approved as designed, would have met the needs of the Canadian Shield and addressed its inability for absorption. Delays in the approval of this system and unnecessary modifications that were required have resulted in a failure to develop the system. That's something that I think, if it was handled more locally, might have had a better chance of getting approved and being available to people now.
Planning in the unincorporated area must be balanced between the need for economic development and environmental protection. There must be recognition of the future potential for the growth of the ecotourism industry and its needs, which we can't even imagine at this point, except that it is the fastest-growing part of the tourism industry, and we really do need to ensure that we've got some land left for that economic activity. Again, a strong need for land use planning in the north.
The volunteer involvement that I spoke of earlier in local services such as roads boards and fire teams is very active in some areas. In these areas which have a strong community involvement, a local services board could provide a structure to collect funds for the efficient operation of these essential services. The area services board in turn would tax for the funds and give the money back to the local services boards. But you still need the volunteer labour. In areas where there is strong community involvement that local services board gives the people who actually live in the area a chance to do some hands-on. But again, like the roads boards, they have a hard time getting the money.
Our association supports taxation model 2, which ensures local input. If this is not possible, we support the DOKURA suggestion of a breakdown of costs as being necessary to indicate the services that are being paid for and how much you're paying for each service.
The Lake of the Woods District Property Owners' Association members have a strong attachment to our area of the Kenora district and we hope that this legislation will be proclaimed into law as soon as possible. We believe that you're in a position to set the stage for a process which will carry us well into the future.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you for your presentation. I'm interested in the local services boards and their involvement with firefighting. You're saying that they do a lot of fundraising and different things to raise money to be able to do their jobs.
Ms Wilson: It's partly that but it's partly also because they don't have an effective way of compliance. It's hard to get the money from a lot of the people and they don't really have any sort of enforcement.
Ms Wilson: In Bill 12 I believe part I referred to local services boards. There were comments in that part that local services boards be created. I think it's a good method of ensuring community support, which I think is really important in rural areas, and it was definitely referred to in part I of Bill 12.
Ms Wilson: Yes. Funnily enough, it's going to increase our taxes, so I'm not really sure why I'm looking forward to it, except that Bill 12 will enable us in the unincorporated to pay for services that we actually need. We need waste management, we need land use planning. I really feel that the people out there don't mind paying for things they need. They're more than willing to do that, from my understanding.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much for your presentation; again, very informative. I think we've had considerable discussion about the unorganized and the taxation issues and so forth. It's very difficult to get the people in the unorganized to come forward and say, "Please, please, set up an area services board so you can send us a tax bill." I think, at first blush, that's quite a concern. But as your presentation points out, and I think everyone would agree, fair is fair and we should all pay for those services that we require and that are going to be provided in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
I'm not sure that without actually writing me a book and sending it that you can answer this question, but I found it rather interesting as we talked about what a local services board is in relation to what local government is, what a municipal government is, when we look at the definitions and the descriptions of what they are in the past, the only thing I hear that is very much different between a local services board and a municipality is the fact that municipalities have the power to tax.
That's one of the reasons, at least from my understanding of the presentations I've heard, that you will very seldom see a local municipality -- and incidentally, the people on the local services boards are community-minded people trying to provided services to their constituents, the same as local council, but you very seldom see a local council holding a bake sale to fund the local fire department. As you said, in the unorganized you have them doing that, but of course the local services board doesn't have the ability to tax. Can you give me your impression of the difference between the two? If you do provide the ability to tax to local services boards, why would you not call that a corporate body and eventually call it a municipality?
Ms Wilson: I believe the local services board does tax. People do pay taxes to the local services board. It's just a matter of who does the taxing, whether it's tacked on to the provincial land tax or the local services board does it on their own. They do have monies but it's hard for them to collect it from everybody they send a bill to, as it were.
Ms Wilson: No. Well, I think some of them do but I might be wrong on that. I know one of the services boards in our area does it through the provincial land tax, and the other one, I believe, does it on their own, but I may be wrong there. One is Minaki and one is Redditt, and one does it one way and one does it the other way. The difference, I guess, is size and the services that they're able to provide.
Local services boards at this point are limited in the services they're allowed to provide. There are only five of them. It would be a good thing if roads were added to it, I think, and perhaps waste management. It's funny that garbage pickup is allowed and waste management isn't. I don't think that many people in the rural areas are looking for garbage pickup, but we would like a place to take our garbage. Difference in size, I would expect. These are rural areas. They don't need street lighting. They don't need sidewalks. They're not looking for bus transportation service. They're simply looking for basic services to be provided that suit their area. So I think there is a great deal of difference between a municipality and a local services board.
Mr Miclash: I've been looking forward to your presentation today, because we came across a fairly unique proposal this morning. As has been indicated, and you have indicated as well, fair is fair when it comes to taxation, but the proposal this morning was that there should be a difference between a seasonal owner and a permanent resident and that if a person were caught -- you know what I'm talking about -- in the same taxation area, they should be able to have, as our American visitors do when they go to the border to go back into the United States of America, a tax credit. You know the couples on fixed incomes I'm talking about. They come to me in great numbers and ask why they have to pay the same taxation on their permanent residence as they do on their seasonal residence and should there maybe be some sort of a tax credit if they're caught in that situation. I'm looking forward to your comments on that.
Ms Wilson: I think if it were possible to determine residency, that would make really good sense. I think it is for a lot of the seasonal residents; a lot of them simply cannot be here physically. They're on islands. Their cottage is not insulated. They don't have plumbing facilities. They simply are not inhabitable in the off season. I don't think there are many seasonal residents who are down here more than a total of perhaps three months, even given the weekends in the winter that some of them do come. So certainly a lot of our members would be in great support of that.
I think what's really important to understand is that in areas where there is a very large percentage of seasonal residences such as in Lake of the Woods South, Lake of the Woods North, there needs to be some sort of consideration in those areas, whether you separate seasonal and permanent or whether you just say that 99% of the people on the islands, 99.9% probably, are only there for a couple of months, so maybe islands should receive something for people who are on water access and can't get there except by boat, for people who live on lakes where they have to walk in.
If you're on a plowed road that has year-round access and you have a winterized home, I think it would be difficult. Certainly our members would like it, but I think it would be very difficult, except that one way you could do it is to figure out where the guy's main residence is. They have to determine where their main residence is, and if they are able to do that and satisfy the requirements of doing that, yes, a seasonal rate would certainly be desired, but I think it has to be done fairly. I am just concerned that there could be some loopholes. I don't know.
Mr Miclash: Again, it raised my interest this morning because this particular individual suggested that OK, you are a property owner in, let's say, the town of Kenora or Jaffray Melick, yet you have a cottage within that school board taxation area. You are contributing to the local economy. You are not packing up and going south for six months. You are contributing to the local economy by having two residences. Their feeling was that should be recognized. I guess that's the point I was getting at.
Ms Wilson: I agree with you there, but since you bring up school taxes, that has long been a really sore point with seasonal residents in this area, not only because they are taxed at the same rate, but that they're not allowed to access it. They are simply not allowed to use it. I have personal experience with that, but I don't need to bring that up. That has really been a difficult one for the seasonal residents to swallow. There have been huge increases, of course, in school taxes, but the other end of it is the fact they have not been allowed to use it if they wanted to. There are situations where they might want to and that's been a real tough one.
I am entering the sixth term as mayor, having sat out one term, and had two terms as councillor. Before that, in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, I was a member of the joint planning board. At that time the unorganized areas were represented. For the last two decades they haven't been. It is good news to my ears to hear they realize that planning is necessary for the area, and let's keep it an area services board so we know where we're going, not little pieces here and there and having different plans and agendas.
In January of this year, Chris Hodgson, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, was in this room at a banquet and I told him that the planning they're doing for amalgamation had great merit and could be a success for us to have an economic future, but it has to be done right.
In the Kenora area and especially around the town of Kenora, there is a large number of seasonal residents, and there are also residents living year-round in the unorganized territory because it's cheaper to live out there, and also, not that it's also cheaper, but people, instead of building summer camps now on the lake, are building permanent homes, so they are commuting. It's a bedroom community of ours. In order to be successful economically, we have to have numbers and they are sparsely populated up here.
The minister has the opportunity to add any services to Bill 12. It's a matter of collecting services that are being provided by the municipalities that the seasonal or unorganized, all-year-round residents use in the municipality. There is no way to collect it.
The DSSAB or the area services board would be a mechanism of the minister to collect those things. We've heard about waste, garbage collection. We have spent $1.1 million so far on trying to find a site because nobody in the unorganized or built-up areas want it in their backyard. We're not sure we've found the site. We want to make sure when we find it that it's going to protect our lakes and so on, so the costs are there.
We hear that they want to share it and pay, but the share part works, the paying doesn't. You can't run a garbage system on $1 a bag when you've got $1.1 million in consultants' fees. Also, the costs to generate a garbage dump will be in the millions of dollars. Everybody has to pay their fair share.
The school boards: It was mentioned about the taxes. The seasonal residents complained about it. They had to pay a high tax. We hear they're seasonal. Some of them say, "We only use our properties for two months of the year." If I bought a condo or a house in Winnipeg and I only went there two months of the year, would I get two months' taxation? No. Even if they had a condo in Florida they still pay taxes 12 months a year for services, whether they use them or not.
What we're saying is that we want to help the whole area and all our planning has been done for that. People don't know that Kenora Hydro pays 1.5% of their hydro bill to help lower the rate in the unorganized territories, which amounts to over $100,000 a year. Kenora telephone has worked with Bell to make sure we could get toll-free service from Sioux Narrows, Bradette and Clearwater Bay. That saves the residents there. Instead of paying long-distance charges, there is free access to Kenora. It's a benefit to Kenora and it helps the economic life of the area.
I think we've got to get our heads out of the sand and try working together on this. The three municipalities are trying to amalgamate and that's a hard enough job. We have a study going on taking in a broader area to see what's best economically and how we can manage it so that everybody's share is bearable and that we can get the best service for our dollar.
I think for the three municipalities to amalgamate there are some technical changes that have to be done and we need to consult with the government. We've been trying. Chris Hodgson was here in January to arrange meetings at NOMA. Al Leach promised we would have a conference call. Nothing's happened yet.
We're trying, when we come down to AMO, spending the whole week to try to arrange to meet with the ministers and point out some things. We don't need a commissioner to tell us. We've grown up here. We know what the problems are, what the government has to do and the members on the panel have to take into consideration.
Hear us out. Hear what our problems are. Try to help us find the solution so that we can grow economically. We have the resources here. We have the lifestyle that everybody wants. Let's work together on this. It can be done and we can improve. We don't have to keep raising taxes if we co-operate and do things properly.
I want to thank you for hearing me out and wish the panel luck in trying to work things out. This is only one area, so it's hard to legislate acts that satisfy one particular area, but we need some special consideration to get this done.
On behalf of all those involved, we apologize that the meetings you've been trying to set up have not yet taken place. We sure hope that in the next few weeks as you go to AMO they can be arranged and actually take place.
I have a couple of questions on the presentation and the actual content of Bill 12. You were here most of the afternoon, so you were also here for the last presenter. It was suggested that waste management should be a core service for area services boards, because that's a service that you need in a broader context than local services boards or than local municipalities. You seem to agree with that analysis, that because of the cost of getting one approved you need a larger tax base and everyone can't be finding a site of their own. You have to work together.
Do you see the ability for the minister by regulation to include more services? Is that sufficient to cover off, that waste management could be put under the umbrella of an area services board, as opposed to making it a core service that all area services boards must provide if they're set up?
Mr Winkler: I think one central dump is enough for a given radius; I don't say for the whole district of Kenora, but in the tri-municipal area here one dump would be enough. But keep in mind that capital costs have to be entered into it.
Mr Hardeman: There has been considerable debate about the local services boards in relation to organized municipalities in the north. We've heard quite consistently that the organized municipalities or the municipalities that have a municipal structure have concerns that the development takes place outside their boundaries and then the residents do not necessarily pay for their fair share of municipal services because they don't become part of the municipal tax base.
The residents who make that decision to build in the unorganized or in the area where they have no municipal government say that is a conscious decision of choice, that they want to live in that type of atmosphere and it's not necessarily related to the fact that they don't have to pay taxes. In fact, we've had many present and say they're quite willing to pay their fair share of taxes but it's a way of life they've decided to take.
Do you share the concern that if the ability to create, or the Minister of Northern Development decides to allow more local services boards, that's going to be a hindrance to the operation of organized municipalities or municipal structures in the north?
Mr Winkler: As I say, there are services that are used in the municipalities such as recreation, museums and libraries that are able to tax on to the area services boards. To collect from those people, we all benefit. But the willingness to pay has to be, like I said before, shared services, user-pay. There's a person on the area working committee who wanted to dump when his area was closed by natural resources, phoned up our CEO: Could they use our dump? We said, "Yes, but it's $30 a tonne to dump it." That ended the conversation. That's the important part.
Mr Hardeman: One final question, Mr Mayor. A number of presenters have suggested that the areas where they have no municipal government at present should be able to levy taxes through the area services board for the services they provide locally, such as fire service and so forth, and it was in the last presentation. From your last comment, am I to understand that you also feel that the areas where they have municipal government should be able to levy through the area services board for services provided by local government to people who are utilizing those services outside their municipality?
Mr Winkler: I have a little concern about the area services board trying to tell the big boys what to do. If it's fair taxation, how you collect it can be agreed upon. It doesn't matter. You've got to get your hand in your pocket and it's a question of how deep.
Mr Miclash: Kel, with the number of aspiring cabinet ministers in the room here, it's good that you should mention the meetings in Toronto to indicate the cost and the time for people from this area to get down to Toronto and not gain the access to the ministers you've indicated. I think it's something that some of the folks may want to take back to those appropriate ministers.
This is a question I've asked a good number of the mayors, reeves and councillors who have come forth. I've asked about their ability to access the various funds being announced by the government. Are you happy with the additional costs to your ratepayers? Are you happy with the fact that the government has suggested that, yes, this is going to be revenue-neutral and are you happy with the access to those funds they've announced?
Mr Winkler: We've gotten some funds. The question is to iron out the difference in our numbers and theirs. In February, when we were down for Good Roads, we talked to Frank Klees about the difference in the Ontario Works program. Our figures and theirs were close to $500,000 out.
Since then we've been talking from Thunder Bay, and I think Ian Smith is aware of it, and we went to Sudbury and we were all over the place. They're finally coming around to saying, "Yes, we agree with your figures." If we get that difference, it will help make it revenue-neutral. We're $780,000 short from our last tax bill that we sent out, figuring that we're going to get that money from the government. Otherwise, if we have to send out a third bill, it'll be money we don't get from the government. But we have a chance, if we can sit down with the bureaucrats and give our figures out. There are fines the town can get. We can wipe that out and maybe come out with a surplus. But we've got to have closer co-operation. To run a business, you can't wait; the delays cost you money.
Mr Miclash: Kel, fair is fair, as we've heard many times today as well in terms of taxation. You were here when I ran the idea by Gerry Wilson in terms of a tax credit for, say, one of your citizens or one of the citizens in the school district of Kenora-Keewatin-Patricia, to have been taxed both on their permanent residence and on their summer cottage. I mentioned the fact to her that they are paying into the economy at both places; they are not snowbirds, they are not leaving country but are paying in both places. I have a good number of them who come to me when they reach an age where they're on fixed incomes, where they want to go out and enjoy that place they've worked very hard to get to where it's at and to maintain it, where they're finding it almost impossible to put up with the taxation system that's there that imposes double taxation, from what they feel. How would you feel about some sort of a system that would recognize that?
Mr Winkler: But you've got to be fair. If taxation for schools is on the general roll and you start making fish of one and fowl of the other, it's pretty hard to do. I feel for the people who are on fixed incomes, but those who are in Florida don't get any compensation for that, and those who are going to Florida can probably afford it. It's hard to say. I think you've almost got to get to a means test to see, because some people in their older age are being taxed for that and getting no benefit, but when their children went to school, somebody else paid for it.
Mr Hampton: What I want to ask you is this. As you know, these boards will require you to take on certain services initially, but others down the road. Do you have a trend line for Ontario Works in terms of what the costs are going to be? Certainly you're going to have to cover the cost of Ontario Works, or a certain percentage of Ontario Works, through the services board. Do you have a trend line for that?
Mr Winkler: Funny you would mention public health. We were threatened with lawsuits if we didn't pay. We never shirked our duty but we've paid, and the government has paid for the unorganized and for the natives in this area. So there's unjust taxation. We've already paid, the others haven't. But I think we have to have some input locally and I think it should be done through the area services board.
Mr Hampton: Other people I've talked to have expressed concern that the minister would have the capacity simply to sign an order or make a new order and require the municipality to take on yet other services under the board. Does that give you some concern?
Mr Hampton: The other issue that people have said with me, and I'd like your reaction on it, is under subsection 41(6). It not only provides that taxes can be assessed to pay for these services but also that a board may charge fees as well. It puts to the board, I guess, two responsibilities. One would be that eventually, not necessarily immediately, you would be assessing taxes. You'd be sending a notice to local municipalities and to people living in unorganized areas saying, "You must pay this amount through taxes." But it also puts upon you a fee responsibility, so a policing fee, an ambulance fee, a land use planning fee etc. Does that give you some concern, that in effect not only additional services may be put on your plate down the road but you may be told, in addition to tax, "If you need revenue, then assess these fees against your residents?"
Mr Winkler: I think that's the opening of the door and the trend is user-pay. You have to have taxation for some of the capital costs, but in order to keep operating you have to have a user fee. It's one thing to build a marina or any structure, it's another thing to keep it operating. If you use your taxation for the capital costs and you may have to have some user fees. Right now for recreation, we're doing it through taxation and we still have charges for different groups.
Ms Carol Jacobson: My name is Carol Jacobson. I'm the director of health policy, the Ontario Medical Association. I would like to thank the standing committee for giving us the opportunity to present our comments to the committee. We know how busy your schedule is and all the travelling you have to do.
The Ontario Medical Association understands the intent of Bill 12. However, we are concerned that in achieving the purpose of the legislation, there may be some very significant consequences, especially for the delivery of public health programs and services in northern Ontario.
This is not the first time that the OMA has been concerned about the consequences of altering responsibility in the delivery of public health services. As you may know, the OMA worked closely with the government last fall to modify and amend the Services Improvement Act, Bill 152. It was with this legislation that the government altered responsibility for certain services, including public health services, by moving them to the municipal level. Amendments to the legislation proposed by the OMA and agreed to by government helped to protect the integrity of public health services.
At that time, the Ontario government recognized our concerns as realistic and legitimate. The resulting amendments meant that local medical officers of health maintained a direct reporting relationship with local boards of health on health issues. Boards of health continue to have unfettered access to health professionals' expertise and advice. With another amendment, it became mandatory that the Minister of Health monitor municipal compliance with mandatory public health programs and services. Consequently, we believed that protection and integrity of public health programs had been secured. Therefore, there is some irony to the fact that today we face the possibility that another piece of legislation, namely, Bill 12, may be contrary to and inconsistent with our joint work on the original Services Improvement Act.
We feel that the programs we fought so hard to maintain may once again be vulnerable and threatened. Since the Services Improvement Act has been in place only since January 1, 1998, it is at this point difficult to fully determine its impact on the delivery of public health programs and services to the people of Ontario. To implement yet another system of delivery for these programs and services at this time specifically for people in northern Ontario does not seem to be appropriate or advisable.
Public health addresses issues that have province-wide impact. For example, the whole field of communicable disease control is global in nature and affects all Ontarians. The emergence of vancomycin-resistant enterococci, VRE, and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, both drug-resistant bacteria that have been known to require temporary closure of several hospitals, as well as other new virulent strains of bacteria, make it critical that Ontario maintain a public health system which is able to respond quickly and effectively to these new threats.
A continuation of ongoing surveillance programs, appropriate disease-control measures to prevent further outbreak situations and close monitoring of such outbreaks when they occur, and the evaluation of public health strategies put in place to deal with them are critical components of our public health system. As we have said on many occasions, bacteria simply do not know or recognize borders or regions.
Public health services in rural areas are often a critical link for local physicians who do not have access to resources available in large urban centres. Boards of health and medical officers of health work with many local physicians who do not have the time or the ability to carry out effective communicable disease contact tracing, investigation and counselling.
Boards of health and medical officers of health also keep practising physicians within their geographic areas apprised of current communicable disease issues. As evidence of this, in a recent Ontario Medical Association immunization practice survey of over 1,000 family physicians in the province, 97% of respondents indicated that they keep informed about immunization issues through their local boards of health and medical officers of health.
In discussing Bill 12 specifically, the OMA will confine its comments to the overall framework of public health programs and services. It is within this framework that medical officers of health play a very important part, and we are concerned that if their role is reduced or removed, that framework will be significantly weakened.
We know that medical officers of health and boards of health members will be presenting to the standing committee their own local concerns. Today I want to share with you our specific and more general concerns about this legislation.
First section 34, and later section 38, of Bill 12 mandate that the decision-making powers for public health in the north will reside with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. There is no legislated requirement for the minister to involve the Ministry of Health or obtain the approval of the Minister of Health before making decisions affecting public health in the north.
Our experience does not give us confidence that interministerial collegial consultation alone will ensure that health care expertise and approval will be obtained and applied to such decisions. The OMA believes it's inappropriate for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to make decisions on health matters without the full and adequate input of the Ministry of Health.
Therefore, the OMA recommends that the Ministry of Health must approve the public health components of the plans for an area services board and that those plans meet all of the provisions of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Second, we have concerns with another part of section 38. As it now stands, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines will have the power, by order, to indefinitely postpone the implementation of public health services in northern areas. Any such postponement, disruption or delay in public health services in the north, available to other Ontarians, is clearly unacceptable.
The ability to postpone is without limitation. When the Services Improvement Act was passed, there was no allowance for any hiatus in the delivery of public health programs and services in Ontario. There should be no reason for such a hiatus of these same services in the north as a result of Bill 12. All Ontarians must at all times have access to these important public health programs and services.
Thirdly, the OMA supports subsection 38(2), which states that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines "Shall not derogate from standards for the provision of services imposed under any act." However, the OMA is concerned that this does not clearly define what cannot be derogated. For example, will an area services board have to comply with all of the requirements of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, including those which protect the independence of the medical officer of health? This should be mandated.
Fourth, subsection 41(1) establishes public health services as a core service that an ASB shall provide. Bill 12 does not bring into it, however, any of the restructures and reporting relationships -- including, again, the role of the medical officer of health -- that exist in the Health Protection and Promotion Act to ensure the maintenance of the excellent current public health programs and services. This too should be mandated. The Health Protection and Promotion Act recognizes the critical nature of the medical officer of health in the delivery of public health programs. With this bill, the OMA is concerned that this could create a different and significantly lower standard for the north than for the south.
Subsection 41(6) allows ASBs unrestricted powers to charge fees for services, including public health services. There is no such provision currently. We understand there are some amendments being made to the Municipal Act which will clearly define what services cannot charged for. Will Bill 12 supersede those or will they be the same? Will northern Ontarians be charged for services that are available free of charge to those in the south? This needs to be clarified.
A further concern of the OMA is that under Bill 12, the area services board is not deemed to be a board of health. The minister may so order, but is not required to do so. This issue requires clarification. Will an ASB therefore have to comply with the requirements of the Health Protection and Promotion Act? Will an ASB be required to carry out the mandatory programs as outlined in the HPPA? What enforcement mechanisms will be in place to ensure that public health programs and services are delivered as intended under the Health Protection and Promotion Act?
Therefore, the OMA strongly recommends that where an ASB undertakes the provision of public health services, the ASB must be deemed to be a board of health within the full meaning of, and fully subject to, the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Without this revision there may well be, I reiterate, a public health system in the province with two standards: one for the south and the other, a lower standard, for the north.
Ontario's effective public health system has successfully managed communicable disease outbreaks, epidemics, disease prevention and health promotion. The people of northern Ontario must continue to receive these services, as do the rest of the citizens of Ontario, to protect them from outbreaks, inform them of communicable disease status such as meningitis, sexually transmitted disease, issues of lung cancer, unwanted teenage pregnancies. We believe it is important that Bill 12 not disrupt this excellent and critical service.
The OMA and the doctors of Ontario stand ready to work with you to find ways to maintain a safe and reliable public health system, not only for the people in southern Ontario but for those in the north, while still maintaining the overall goals of Bill 12. These recommendations in this brief move us towards that common goal.
Mr Miclash: You certainly bring a perspective to the table that we've been hearing from a good number of health care providers, our district health units, in the presentations they have put forth and some of the comments they have made since the introduction of this bill. I think your statement regarding a double standard in terms of the public health programs in southern Ontario -- a lower standard of medical services in the north over the south -- is pointed out in terms of your brief here. I just hope the committee will take a close look at this.
We've heard from a good number of municipal representatives as we've done the hearings this morning and this afternoon their concerns when it comes to the outflow of taxation dollars from northern Ontario. I think what you've done here is actually pointed out that northern Ontario does not want a second-class standard, and some of the discrepancies that you have put forth in terms of Bill 12 will certainly put this on the table and will point this out. Again, I thank you for that.
Mr Gravelle: Dr Orovan, you made reference, obviously, to programs that are provided in southern Ontario. I start thinking about genetic counselling services, for example. In fact, when the decision was made to download services to municipalities, genetic counselling was taken off the table. There was a lot of pressure, and the government agreed to fund genetic counselling services and a couple of other services until the end of March 1999, I believe.
Is that an example of what you're talking about in terms of being able to maintain services that are available in southern Ontario? I guess the question is, are you in essence saying that the provincial government needs to maintain the financial support for that because it's not fair to expect it to be coming from the taxpayers up here?
Ms Jacobson: There are two sets of programs that we refer to. There are the mandatory programs, which are supposed to be performed. Genetic counselling falls under a set of programs that are not part of the mandatory. We agree and have certainly requested that the government continue the funding for those programs that are considered "not mandatory."
We're also concerned that under those that are mandatory, if they start charging fees for programs, especially ones that are required by people who can't afford to pay them, then they will not be accessible to those who need them the most. That is the concern we have.
So there are really two kinds: that the mandatory programs are maintained and delivered to those who need them, and then of course we also have a concern we didn't address here, because it's a separate issue not dealt with under the mandatory, for genetic counselling, speech and language therapy and the programs that fall in that area.
Mr Hampton: How worried are you that this will create a fragmentation of public health? In other words, we will not have a consistent public health policy and a consistent public health standard and a consistent public health delivery across northern Ontario and certainly across the province.
Dr Orovan: That's certainly a very major concern of ours. We had this concern originally when we participated in Bill 152. We thought we had put that to rest. We see now that there is a possibility that this act resurrects those same problems specifically in northern Ontario. That is certainly a very major concern.
Mr Hampton: Can you tell us why you would be concerned about fragmentation? I want you to touch on the health aspect. In other words, what are the repercussions and the impacts for us down the road if we fragment the public health system? I also want you to touch on the cost to health care or the cost of health care if we don't pay sufficient attention to public health and we allow this piece of legislation to fragment public health.
Ms Jacobson: There are a number of issues. Dealing with the cost first, with the area services boards, right now there are seven public health units in the north. There's a potential of having more public health units. Public health, when they deal with health issues, deal on a population-based issue and the cost goes down the more people they can deal with, up to 250,000. The ideal numbers are 150,000 to 250,000 people. At 50,000, you're kind of getting borderline. Anything less than this and the costs almost become prohibitive.
What you will have a problem with is maintaining the professional services that you need and having the people get the appropriate data that you need to be able to do the trending. What may happen is that if you have an outbreak of meningitis, for example, it may take longer for that to actually be picked up by the various area services boards, if in fact they pick it up at all. You may actually have a widespread epidemic, and not just in the north, because if anybody travels south, as we've said, these bacteria will go with them and you can have all of Ontario impacted. Then of course you're looking at a significant cost.
Mr Hampton: You say a significant cost. The lesson I've always been told is that prevention always costs less, and public health is essentially about prevention. If we fragment the prevention system, what are the potential down-the-road costs for the health care system, and for all of us, I guess?
Ms Jacobson: For example, if you don't have all the children immunized for measles before they go to school, you can have an epidemic of measles within the school, therefore having to close the school, parents maybe having to take time off work. So you have a cost not only to the health care system. If the kids get very sick, you also have a cost to the employment system, people having to stay home and take care of them. So you have a number of costs. It's very hard to actually give you figures, because of course we don't have those costs now.
Dr Orovan: I think what you can say is that while it is not always shown that prevention is less costly than treatment, in the areas of public health and communicable diseases we do have very powerful evidence that prevention is the most important factor in cost.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much for your presentation. First of all, I do want to thank you for your presentation and pointing out your concerns. I can assure you that there is no intention to have a two-tier public health system in the province or that this legislation in any way would detract from the quality of public health in northern Ontario, different from what would be in southern Ontario.
My understanding of the legislation, and I'm sure the authors of the actual document will study it deeper, is that as the minister approves an area services board to take over the public health function, at that point in time he could include the direction that they would be considered a board of health, recognizing that if an area services board was put in place that did not cover the area that's presently covered by the board of health, that board of health could stay in place and the new area services board could purchase the service from that board of health. At that point in time, of course, if the legislation said that any area services board that takes over that function must be a board of health, we would then have two -- the requirement of two boards of health legislatively, two medical officers of health, and two structures to service that same area that's presently being done by one board of health.
The intention here is, of course, that they could carry on the function. The responsibility could go to the area services board, but the function could be maintained by the present board of health and could be purchased. I recognize the OMA's concern with that, and we can assure you that the ministry will be looking at whether some of that change needs to be made, because again no one, at least on the government side, wants to have a public health care system that is different in northern Ontario than it is anywhere else. We want quality service for all the residents of the province.
Again I think the minister, as he approves area services boards, does not have the ability to override the Health Protection and Promotion Act. He has to follow the direction in that act, and he must provide those services if he approves that area services board. Again, if he didn't actually declare them a board of health, he would have to see that they provided the services in the same way that a board of health did, including the medical officer of health and how they would provide the services.