July 18, 2018

Our Articles

Half a Century and Still no Change In most people’s lives 52 years is a long time. As our lives unfold, we change, we grow and we adapt to the world us around to ensure our success, improve our lives and learn new things. Not so with our District Council. The current group of District Councillors will consider any change to their structure only when the government, by amendments to the Municipal Act, forces them to do so. The first significant change will occur in the 2018 fall election when the people will elect the District Chair when they cast their ballots. One Muskoka has advocated this change for almost eight years. It was by government direct intervention that this happened. The second change in the legislation targets the number of elected councillors to the district council. In May 2016, Debbie Crowder, the District Clerk, prepared an excellent report on the history of the regional government including some options on composition for consideration by the members of Council. The report sat on the shelf. No action. Finally, a Composition Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Mayor Bob Young. The first meeting was held in July 2017 with a recommendation to hire a consulting firm to provide options on the council composition. With a dead line of October 16, 2017, the firm scrambled to complete the scope of the work. A public meeting was held to hear the draft report options, regulatory requirements and the time line for implementation. Few members of the public attended. The composition committee then met to finalize the report. There was some thoughtful discussion, some reasonable ideas and some outrageous comments at the meeting. It was not long before it became very clear, there will be no change to the 52 councillors that govern the district and the municipalities. Was it a deliberate, calculated move on the part of some councillors to leave the matter to the eleventh hour to ensure there will be no change (if then) until 2022? Muskoka will continue to be one of the most over governed regions in the province of Ontario. One where current councillors protect their own backyards at the expense of putting Muskoka first. At the November 20th District Council will receive the recommended motion for no change. Prediction: 52 years with 52 councillors will continue.

Options for Change at District Council

If the voters in Muskoka ever needed to pay attention to political change the time is now!https://muskoka.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/30330?preview=30333

The district Councillors will be debating at the October 16th meeting how many councillors are needed to represent you at the council table.

We encourage citizens to read the recent report on the District Council Composition on the district website, call or email your Councillor for clarification on the various options.

One Muskoka supports an option that reduces the number of councillors and is based on 100% of all residents, as determined from the MPAC voters list.

Representation by population is the democratic foundation in our society. However, let us not slip down the slippery slope of representation by property values. The more valued your property the more representation you receive.

Muskoka is set for significant change when the newly elected District Chair takes office in October 2018. We need a strong leader who wears the Muskoka First Hat and who addresses the overlap and duplication that exists in our over governed region.

No system of government is perfect, but we are continuously trying to move Muskoka forward by creating a mandate to engage citizens. Before casting your vote be very well informed. Choosing the right person to represent you is essential. This will be a critical election to ensure Muskoka’s ongoing success.


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