June 25, 2018

Report to Citizens


New Municipal Legislative Changes Ahead


A Call to Action for Muskokans Press Release

Muskoka, Ontario – November 27, 2016

A call to action is not an easy task! One Muskoka has been researching data, sharing information, talking to groups, writing letters to the media, all in the hope of drawing attention to the pressing need to find efficiencies by eliminating duplication in our current government structure and to spend our tax dollars more wisely. OM has also been advocating for an independent third party review. This idea has seemed like whistling in the wind as we now recognize that given the current district councillors will not even seek outside advice on reviewing the number of councillors needed. If there ever was a group looking after themselves, it is  the 22 members of the district council.

Queens Park indicates that in the new year changes relative to the Municipal Act affecting our current district council will be approved. One of the important changes is the election of the District Chair, including mandatory reviews of the council composition. The provincial government will act when our current district council was unwilling to do so. Had Muskoka councillors had courage, Muskoka could have been a leader in the province.

Our team’s most recent effort has been to engage face to face with local citizens. We are releasing our Report on a series of Table Talks held throughout Muskoka over the past year. Citizens were invited to an open conversation and debate based on 3 key questions at these facilitated events. “We were most impressed with the level of citizen engagement … the opinions were diverse and varied with many excellent ideas on how we can come together for all of Muskoka ” said Catherine King, a founding member of One Muskoka.

These Table Talks showed the scope of concern for Muskoka’s future in an ever-changing political, economic, socio-cultural and technical environment. The Report also lays out Action Plans for citizens, Councillors, potential 2018 election candidates and for One Muskoka itself. Further, there are many links to Resources and Sources used during their extensive research.

Citizens permanent and seasonal, urban and rural are invited to read the Report, share ideas, and above all take action!




One Muskoka, Two Muskoka, Three Muskoka More!

Dear Editor;

A tip of the hat to Cindy Waters for keeping the conversation going regarding how many Muskokas we need. Each of the six municipalities uses the Muskoka brand when competing with each other to draw tourists or business to their towns/townships. Cindy raises some good examples of cooperation and working together.

As to decision making in our existing structure it is made up of 51 elected officials doing 74 jobs. District councilors vote on municipal and district issues and often refer the items back to themselves as in the recent fluoride discussion/decisions. We think a good look is needed at the number and purpose of those elected officials in light of getting good decisions.

As out taxes keep rising for things like roads, bridges and other infrastructure items we wonder how long we can continue. One Muskoka is not comfortable with continuing to pay for a lot of duplication in our municipal services with our fixed pension dollars.

We need taxation without duplication.

One Muskoka

Mike Provan, Evelyn Brown, Catherine King

Once Voice For All

Dear Editor;

A recent problem with the financing of municipalities in our eastern provinces has brought about a need and demand for change from the voters.

In Pictou County three municipalities have decided to look at working together in order to keep their area a vibrant option for future growth. One of the mayors says” Everybody knows there is only one taxpayer, no matter which order of government is providing services.”

Their purpose of developing this working plan is to “fix the old, expand the existing infrastructure and construct the new” in a cooperative way. As the mayor of Pictou County said” Why do we need change? Simply put, we need to start promoting ourselves as a region. We need to be seen and heard as a region and put our many strengths in front of us.”

One Muskoka asks: If others see this why don’t we?   Is it too easy to just raise taxes and keep paying for seven of everything?

Let’s have taxation without duplication.


One Muskoka

Mike Provan, Evelyn Brown, Catherine King

Low Credit? No Problem!

Dear Editor;

The District has reported that the baseline credit assessment of the District is below that of the Province resulting in the District’s credit rating being downgraded. The credit assessment also includes the growing debt of the six municipalities. This means that overall we are paying more of our growing tax dollars for debt interest.

The District says “No problem right now”! What about tomorrow?

Perhaps we can all turn in our gold to one of those helpful dealers in Toronto next time we are down begging for money from the Province. But wait the Province has credit rating problems too. Oh well we can just increase taxes as we always have.

Maybe we should start looking at how we can lower our expenditures. Maybe we can reduce some of the duplication in our six municipalities and one district. Maybe we can follow the advice given to us 14 years ago and off-set cost by millions of dollars each year. Maybe that money could fix roads or lower the debt. Maybe we can have taxation without duplication. Maybe we need new thinking and leadership.

Let’s have taxation without duplication.


One Muskoka

Mike Provan, Evelyn Brown, Catherine King

Big Ideas – The Muskoka Accountability Pledge

The Big Idea for Muskoka in October 2014 is the municipal election. Past elections have seen and heard candidates espouse the virtues of accountability, openness, integrity and transparency. Why our Federal Government even went so far as to pass legislation called the Accountability Act. Previous governments have had the Clarity Act. These concepts are not new.

One Muskoka has developed something for this election that maybe new to Muskoka. It is called the Muskoka Accountability Pledge. We have sent this pledge out to all 100 candidates registered in this upcoming election. We have asked the candidates to sign the pledge if they agree with the six commitments. In short the six commitments include cooperation with other Councillors, respecting taxpayer’s money as if it were their own, communicating with taxpayers throughout the term of office, seeking advice from taxpayers, promoting taxation without duplication throughout Muskoka and fulfilling the duties to the highest standards of personal integrity. While these seem to be very straight forward and non-controversial it will be interesting to see who does and who does not sign the pledge. But why did we do this?

Over the last four years One Muskoka has been reviewing municipal expenses and talking to taxpayers about the need to reduce the duplication of services (i.e. seven finance departments). We have also talked about the need for an independent review of how our local governments are organized into six municipalities and one district each with similar administrations with a cost to the Muskoka taxpayer of $221 million.

A similar review was done in 1999 (Rice report) and at that time the annual savings to the taxpayer for one of the options was at a minimum of $5 million dollars. The incoming councils of the year 2000 decided not to do anything and continued with the same organization originally developed in 1970. So much for 5 million dollars into the savings account. That’s enough to fix some roads each year or help build a nursing station.

Over these past four years One Muskoka has heard from our local municipal politicians that the taxpayer is not interested in changing the way Muskoka is organized. They have told us that everything is working well .Our taxes increase every year and we constantly hear about the need for more provincial money.

We have also heard from the taxpayers of the need to reduce the duplication of how our municipal services are delivered. We have also heard from the taxpayers that competition between Muskoka municipalities is contributing to the duplication especially in economic development and tourism promotion.

The next time you see a candidate ask if they have signed The Muskoka Accountability Pledge. This is our chance to hold our candidates accountable. Our future depends on it.


One Muskoka

Mike Provan, Evelyn Brown, Catherine King

August 2014 Newsletter

The October 27th municipal election is fast approaching. Our group, One Muskoka, has  continued to write letters to the editors of the local papers and most recently we were guests on Hunters Bay Radio station 88.7 FM. This broadcast proved an excellent opportunity to highlight our position in the coming election. Muskoka must have an independent review of all services, procedures and policies. Most critical to this review is the inclusion of all the lower tier municipalities.

Although we have been advocating this necessity for all most four years now, none of the current elected politicians have seen fit to take any action on this matter. One can only conclude that duplication, overlap and uncoordinated procedures and services are just fine. They are equally satisfied that no review is needed because, well simply, just raise the taxes and put off improvements to the crumbling infrastructure.

To ensure that taxpayers elect mayors and councillors who will take action and follow through with this request, One Muskoka has prepared an “Accountability Pledge.” This pledge is simple and reasonable for any honourable candidate. The pledge is attached with this newsletter. You will note that we have included above the signature “without prejudice”. This will eliminate any legal commitment, so only a candidate’s reputation is at stake.

It is our intention to send it to every candidate to endorse. Once we have the pledge returned by the week of September 12, we will inform you who is prepared to move ahead with the review and who is not. It will be up to you as a taxpayer to make your choice on the ballot. Further, we will be forwarding the list to the media.

In addition, we have attached some questions you might like to ask to candidate should you get a call, attend an all candidates meeting, or personally contact a candidate yourself.

This is the most important municipal election since the District Municipality of Muskoka was formed in 1970!




Northubmberland County Makes It Work!

Over the past three years, our group, One Muskoka, has been urging our District Council to increase participation in coordination and cooperation among and between our two levels of government in Muskoka. The reason is simple: let’s eliminate the wasteful duplication and overlap of services and operational procedures and use our hard earned tax dollars more wisely. This request for an independent review has fallen on deaf ears. Some will argue that the district and a couple of lower tier municipalities have hired outside consultants to conduct such reviews. Few reports were made public and none have made any significant improvements across Muskoka. All the while taxes continue to rise. Now facing the potential increase of more than 5% at the district level just to cover the cost of improving crumbling infrastructure, an additional $60,000,000 is needed to meet provincial standards.

Our taxes will rise drastically to support on–going duplication of service delivery in Muskoka.

We are not alone in this dilemma … the concept, seeded by One Muskoka to seek out efficiencies through coordination and cooperation has taken root in Northumberland County. This two tiered county encompassing the Town of Cobourg, and the municipalities and townships of Brighton, Trent-Hills, Port Hope, Hamilton, Cramahe, and Alnwich-Halidmand is nestled north of highway 401 and south of highway7. With some obvious differences in population (Northumberland slightly higher and with limited seasonal residents) we are very similar. We both are experiencing a limited tax base and municipal expenditures increasing at a higher rate than inflation.

But, we are significantly different. Northumberland County took action to address the problem! Last October 2013, the County Council passed a resolution instructing their CEO to form a committee comprised of the other municipal CEO’s. The Council was interested in considering opportunities to achieve a more effective municipal government. It acknowledged the numerous challenges facing all municipalities. Fully aware there is only one taxpayer, Council was focussed on whether options such as service sharing, service delivery alternatives, annexation and amalgamation should be further explored. They also wanted information on the provincial legislation that would allow changes to be made. The report from the Northumberland CAOs’ Committee included recommendations for the next steps, timing and resources.

What is so refreshing in the report was the willingness and enthusiasm of municipal staff from across Northumberland to work together to identify opportunities for improvements. They reviewed 236 services where duplication and overlap occurred and recommended 93 areas including economic development, bylaw enforcement, planning for coordination. The Northumberland County report should serve as a blueprint for Muskoka.

This kind of attitude for change begins at the top with council members and senior management who are prepared to demonstrate leadership with courage, integrity and fortitude. Muskokans must elect candidates who demonstrate this kind of leadership on our councils. We must avoid taxes spend on duplication.

It can start here in Muskoka on October 27.

Taxation Without Duplication