Municipal politics 'the Ford way' topic of CFUW meeting
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | Nov. 22, 2018|
David O’Brien discussed municipal politics the Doug Ford way during a talk at the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) event at the Haliburton School of Art and Design last Thursday.
O’Brien, a former city manager in Sudbury, Ottawa and Mississauga, said the provincial government did not clearly define its platform prior to the June 7 election, so it’s a case of “developing platform as we govern in this province.”
He added it’s no secret Ford has strong opinions about municipal government. He reminded the crowd Ford was a Toronto city councillor, that his brother was both a councillor and mayor and both had their struggles with the City of Toronto. A decision to slash the number of councillors to 25 from 47 and using the notwithstanding clause so early in his term are examples, O’Brien said.
“We have to prepare for a decision making process dramatically different than we’ve had in the past 15 years. This will be a government that will begin to systematically dismantle what’s been done in the past. Expect the unexpected, expect changes to the way we’ve traditionally done business in this province, expect new things to come that we never thought would happen,” he advised.
For example, he said a decision in Toronto to cut cap-and-trade killed a $2.8 m project in Dysart to heat the downtown core with woodchips.
He also discussed his views about local MPP Laurie Scott’s place in all of it
“Laurie is in a difficult position. For the first time in her life, she’s a cabinet minister. On the surface, you would say to yourself that’s a really good thing. But there’s something that could have a reverse impact on us, the whole rule of cabinet solidarity and sticking together on issues. We really have to help her be successful by trying to get her to get things for us while she maintains cabinet solidarity.”
O’Brien has no doubt the new government will focus on the so-called 905 donut, the GTA and its surrounding area, since that’s who elected it and politics is about being re-elected. “The focus, unquestionably, is going to be on urban Ontario. We have to help Laurie refocus some of that attention on rural Ontario … we’re going to really have to rattle the cage hard, make all kinds of noise about us up here.”
One suggestion he had for local politicians is to have regular meetings with Scott and other ministers and MP Jaime Schmale. “Sit down behind closed downs and say here are five things we need from you to make this community work better, well-researched with lots of information and detail so they can stand up in the legislature and say ‘this is what I need in my community in rural Ontario’.”
O’Brien, who’s now living in Highlands East, touched on numerous other topics during an hour-long question and answer session. One recurring theme was that there are two Ontarios, urban Ontario and rural Ontario, and how the province tightly controls municipalities, but has continued to download services while not giving them enough money. He can’t believe he lives in an area where he gets 1.2 Mbps download speeds and no cell service at the local diner.
“We gotta’ start poking the bear, kicking the tires, making a whole bunch of noise about the kinds of things we need in this community and unless we start doing that, we are going to get stuck in this rut for a very long time.”
He answered a question about local amalgamation by saying, “Don’t wait and let somebody do it to you. Get a group together now and start researching the implications of what would happen if we put four municipalities together and created the city of … ”
However, he said they would need to know the costs, potential commercial industrial revenue base, and implications for services. He said people will expect uniform service delivery and “Do you think Highlands East isn’t worried about being lost in the shuffle in one big government?”
“It’s worth looking at but let’s take the time ourselves. Form a committee and sit down and figure it out. We have lots of talent in this community. Give them three months.”
O’Brien was involved in the creation of the City of Hamilton in the 1990s and said he must have held 100 meetings to get community input. “All the bigger organizations said ‘yeah, do it’ but the ordinary folks said prove to me that it’s not going to affect me, or my life, or the way we live in our community.” But as for doing some research, he said “It’s not too much to ask the political leadership in Haliburton County to make that happen.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.