October 17, 2017

Where do Councillors stand on governance?

Dear Councillors, Mayors and District Chairman,

One Muskoka has been promoting the idea of an independent review of Muskoka’s municipal governance.

Having closely examined past attempts at restructuring since the late 1970s we have concluded that despite strong support from ratepayers groups, cottage associations and the general public, Muskoka’s municipal politicians rejected significant change.

As such, we want to publicly identify where you stand on the issue of an independent review of Muskoka’s governance structure. Therefore we are mailing this letter to all 51 of Muskoka’s municipal politicians.

Rather than a simple yea or nay we are hoping to also receive a written statement as to why you are taking a specific stance.

All responses will be published at www.onemuskoka.ca and will also be offered to local media.

The One Muskoka Team feels that two weeks from the date of this mailing is sufficient time for a thoughtful response.

If you don’t wish to reply to this letter we will simply indicate that no reply was received.

Thanking you in advance for your participation in this most important survey.

Evelyn Brown          Liam Cragg        Mike Provan

One Muskoka

Comments

  1. The question is whether we are getting the best bang for our tax dollar with 7 completely separate administrative units.

    All the old reports point to a single tier as being the most cost effective method of delivering government with annual savings in the millions of dollars. As a councillor I feel it is my duty to explore this possibility.

    Would they all have to be housed in one massive building? If you had asked me in the 1980’s I would have said yes. Today they can connect via the internet and you can have face to face conferencing with tools like Skype. There is the opportunity to utilize existing buildings, but a new model for government should be designed with modern communication methods in mind. We shouldn’t just ‘tweak’ the existing model.

    Government has developed on the backs of the baby boom. Now we are facing the boomers going from the peak of their earning years on to a fixed income. Administration costs grow each year with salary increases, utility costs and insurance premiums (just to name a few). Our choices appear to be:
    – cut back on services
    – save on administrative costs
    – raise taxes
    or a combination of them. Which is preferred?

    Our group wants to stimulate conversation on this topic. We want an informed public to discuss their thoughts on Governance Review with their elected representatives: Mayors, District Councillors and Town Councillors (not just me), but they have to be vocal. Until the people speak up nothing will be considered and the status quo will carry on.

    Liam Cragg
    Councillor, Ward 1 Bracebridge

  2. Dear One Muskoka Team,

    I have purposely delayed responding to your letter of September 30, 2011 because for a subject of this importance and widespread impact. emotional, “off the cuff” statements are not helpful, and your 2 week deadline is absurd. As a Council of the Township of the Lake of Bays, we have not yet had a chance to debate this issue around the Council table. That is planned, in the first instance, for the Council meeting of November 22.

    However, on a somewhat superficial level I can share with you my personal views. Do I believe that we are over governed – YES. Do I believe that the solution is one government in Muskoka – NOT NECESSARILY SO. We have some unique properties to our two tier government in Muskoka and to its component parts. Do I think that there is a potentially better governance model – YES BUT WILL NEED LOTS OF THOUGHT, DEBATE, TWEEKING, etc. As a Council I hope that we will be dealing with all of these issues during our term of office.

    Regards,

    Bob Young
    Mayor
    Lake of Bays Township
    705-635-2212
    http://www.lobmayor.ca

  3. Although you do not state clearly in your letter to me, and having read some of your letters to the Editor in the local newspaper, it appears your decision is to have the District of Muskoka Amalgamate.
    Times have changed and people are very aware of serious financial problems around the world. Is spending more money on more studies appropriate at this time? Is there strong support from the citizens to move towards a single tier government?
    If the rational for One Muskoka is based only on cost savings, then those savings need to be demonstrated prior to any decision in that regard being made.
    As Mayor, the Council and District Council of Gravenhurst have a responsibility to listen to our constituents and discuss items of interest. I have not received correspondence from any constituent relating to a one-tier government. I believe we all need to understand the scope of such a change before moving in this direction.
    It is important for individuals to feel a connection with their Council. Due to the geographical size of The District of Muskoka this would be lost. Effective representation, while still maintaining the representation per population principal will resolve in a community not being connected to their Council.
    Is the picture really as bright as One Muskoka claims it will be? Is the end result only a bigger bureaucratic system?

    Mayor Paisley Donaldson
    Town of Gravenhurst

  4. Hello One Muskoka,

    Here are some of my thoughts on “One Muskoka”.

    I’m not sure the public is clear on what “One Muskoka” would mean. I think many people are more enamoured with their Lower-Tier government because they are more likely to see direct action from these staff or council people. I think you should be more clear as to wanting to eliminate the lower-tier government if that is in fact your goal. If this is made clear I believe you will begin to receive more feed-back from the public.
    Personally I’m satisfied with the current system, but believe there are inefficiencies that could be addressed if the goal of “One Muskoka” is to save $$$. I believe dollars can be saved without eliminating a whole level of government and effective local representation in a unilateral action.
    If we are over represented by elected officials we could start by bringing some fairness to the District table with 3 District Councillors representing each Municipality. This would save the District and four Municipalities the costs of these four individuals and would level the playing field between the Towns and Townships. When it comes to staffing committees we never seem to have too many councillors at either level of government.
    When I listen to my Co-councillors who are concerned with duplication they usually focus on Public Works and Planning. If there is duplication and cost savings to be achieved maybe you would begin here. Then again, if I am hearing these people correctly I believe they are indicating they would like to see less $$ to the Upper Tier and more $$ and control to the Lower Tier in these departments, just my assumption.
    Frankly, I believe services such as police, ambulance, social services, solid waste management, and sewer and water are best managed at the District level. A regional view of planning is also only going to occur at the District level. It is hard to imagine the MWC, which I value, being born of six decentralized planning departments.
    When I look at our Township staffing levels I see very little $$ being wasted, unless you count the increasing burden of paperwork and regulations as waste. I think the electorate would be very unhappy to have travel outside the Township for building permits and planning applications, but maybe “One Muskoka” wants less CAO’s and Treasurers, but not less bricks and mortar. Our Public Works Dept. is very small, but covers a lot of territory, that I doubt could be done any more efficiently. Some clarification would be appreciated.
    I think every politician in Muskoka is looking for further efficiency and there are many examples of this. In Lake of Bays we share Fire Services with Algonquin Highlands and Huntsville to the operational and financial benefit of all. Municipal CAO’s and Clerks meet regularly to discuss common challenges and work towards improving their Towns and Townships.
    So if I haven’t spelled it out, I believe the current system is serving the residents of Muskoka very well. I’m open to discussing the “One Muskoka” concept further, but don’t think effective local government should be sacrificed to save a few dollars. One value to your concept is that we must go to work daily looking for more efficiency and sharing of services where ever possible. This is a responsibility every politician must operate under.

    Shane Baker
    Muskoka District Councillor
    705 635 1202
    sbaker@lakeofbays.on.ca

  5. No. I believe the people of Muskoka are well served by the current
    governance model.
    It’s all about balance. Decision-makers are neighbours to the people
    they represent on local issues like parkland, BIA, barking dogs and
    zoning. There are economies of scale achieved at the District level
    for broadly delivered services like solid waste, social services,
    police, land ambulance, waste water treatment and wide level planning.
    It’s the right balance of grass-roots involvement and the efficiency
    of pooled resources.
    Voluntarily eliminating local democracy on the hope of saving a
    fraction of a percent on the tax bill is not one of my priorities.

    Scott Young
    Deputy Chair, District Municipality of Muskoka
    Town of Bracebridge Councillor
    syoung@bracebridge.ca

  6. As a Gravenhurst Councillor and District of Muskoka Councillor, I have a responsibility to my constituents to listen and review any idea that may be of interest to the Municipalities. Moving towards a one-tier structure in the District of Muskoka is one such idea. I believe there are many pros and cons. It is also my responsibility to become fully informed and research any proposal or idea before I give any meaningful comment. As you are well aware, The Town Gravenhurst has had a more than enough on it’s plate over the past few weeks and months, therefore, I am not comfortable in giving an informed response on this issue given the 2 week time frame of your request. I am sure there will be an opportunity for more discussion in the coming months. Having said that, One Muskoka deserves a response to their question and I hope that I have provided you with one today.

    Rosemary King
    Gravenhurst Councillor
    District of Muskoka Councillor
    rosemary@rosemaryking.net

  7. > From:
    > Councillor Paul Wiancko
    > paul.wiancko@gmail.com
    >
    > Message:
    > Thank for your letter of Sept. 30, 2011.
    >
    > As a District Councillor from the Georgian Bay Township I am always
    > prepared to review any issue that is support by the greater
    > population.
    >
    > To this end, please forward any recent written correspondence that you
    > have from any ” ratepayers groups, cottage associations and general
    > public” as noted in your lletter.
    >
    > Ones I have determined the significants of the concerns I would then
    > respond accordingly.
    >

  8. From:
    Heidi Lorenz
    heidi.lorenz@cogeco.ca

    Message:
    In response to your request for a statement, I don’t think there has
    been enough evidence in favour of either argument to give a definative
    answer on where I stand on a one tier goverment. I would like to know
    how much a study would cost, who conducts it and who pays for it
    before I give a firm response. Thanks, Heidi

  9. From:
    Pat Edwards
    edwardsgbtwp@gmail.com

    Message:
    I am responding to your request for my views on the need for a review
    of the Muskoka Governance structure.

    I am prepared to email you a word document but I cant see an email
    address. Could you please let me know the email address and I will
    send you my thoughts.

    tx

    Pat Edwards

  10. From:
    Don Furniss – Councillor Muskoka Lakes
    don_furniss@yahoo.com

    Message:
    Dear Sirs,
    I laud your initiative to look for cost efficiencies in our Municipal
    Govt.
    In almost 12 mos on municipal council, I have noted several areas of
    overlap and redundancy in our 2 tier system.
    There are certainly cost savings by eliminating the lower tier.
    However will the local and seasonal residents be adequately
    represented, that is the $64k question.
    I would fully support the following:
    1. An updated independent study of going to one tier.
    2. I would encourage your organization to conduct a District wide
    petition to determine the level of local support for one tier.
    3. An implimentation plan so residents can visualize what single tier
    would look like for them in 1, 5 and 10 years. ie number of
    councillors, reallignment of wards, headquarters, satelite facities,
    policing, taxation

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