October 17, 2017

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

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