Monday, August 23, 2010

Meeting with Ministers at AMO Conference

Last week, Councillors Emmons and Durley, Town CAO Martin Yamich, and I attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference (AMO). The Annual Conference offers a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities for municipalities. More than 1400 delegates attended the three-day event in Windsor themed “Propelling Economic Prosperity.”

While at AMO, your Pelham reps also directly advanced your interests with the Provincial Government through meetings with four Ministers.

First, we met with the Honourable Jim Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing, to seek clarity about some Greenbelt issues. You see, while re-zoning the new Fire Station #2 property, we had hoped to include some overflow parking in the back portion of the 4.9 acre site. But, under a strict interpretation of the Greenbelt, that was not allowed. Rest assured, the Town did accommodate all the parking in the 2.3 acre “urban boundary” portion of the site. However, we are worried about a strict interpretation for the Centennial Park Master Plan, which calls for building a concession / washroom facility in the Greenbelt. Also, should the Town need to make changes at Fire Station #3 in the Shorthills, any other suitable properties would be Greenbelted. Provincial staff promised to work with Town staff to clarify these issues.

Next, we met with the Hon. Madeline Meilleur, Minister of Community & Social Services regarding the Province’s accessibility standards. You see, nearly six months after we approved our 2010 Capital Budget, the Province changed accessibility requirements for this fall’s Municipal Elections. While it’s good that voting stations now need to be fully accessible, we asked that the Minister consider Municipal budget schedules next time. We also suggested that any future Provincial grants include specific criteria for increasing accessibility. Finally, we informed the Minister about our nine new, fully accessible playgrounds; she was very impressed and may accept our invitation to tour them.

Then, Regional Chair Peter Partington and I met with Hon. Peter Fonseca, Minister of Labour, regarding public sector arbitration awards. We pointed out that while the Provincial Government called on Provincial ministries and municipalities to show fiscal restraint, recent arbitrations have disregarded tax-payer affordability. We referenced two recent three-year awards: 12% for Orangeville Police, and 10% for Niagara Regional Police. The Minister promised to continue to work with the Region on this issue.

Finally, Chair Partington joined Pelham’s representatives in a meeting with Mr. David Orazietti, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant for the Minister of Natural Resources. We asked again that the Ministry not reduce the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) on the Fonthill-Kame. We understand that the Ministry expects to complete its work this fall.