By Don Pearson, General Manager,
There is an acknowledgement that the Ontario economy was hard hit by the global recession that began in 2008; less agreement on the solution. Keep taxes low, reduce the cost of electricity, slash government waste to balance the reduced revenues, get rid of inefficient or useless agencies, or invest in the new economy and in sustainable energy sources, but force the consumer to pay the cost. Folks, the time has come to admit, Ontario can’t meet the challenges of the future without some pain. Should consumers pay, or should the bill for moving to sustainable energy supply and minimizing waste to landfill be paid by those who use the energy and generate the waste?
Having spent the past two days at the Annual Conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), I am struck by the absence of direct reference to the environment in the program, in delegates’ questions to Ministers, and in the presentations by the leaders of the three provincial parties. And yet, environment was pervasive throughout the agenda and as if to ensure that this fact could not be forgotten, a disastrous tornado struck the Town of Goderich moments before the conference got underway on Sunday afternoon. If the mood of the delegates had not been sufficiently sobered as the magnitude of this disaster began to register, the news of Jack Layton’s passing, and its impact on each of us as we heard it, served to remind everyone of the fragile nature of our existence. 2011 will be an AMO Conference to remember.
The theme of this year’s conference – Our Communities… Our Potential…, embraced a contemporary agenda of change – in leadership, in the way we communicate, in our local economies, and in the way we identify and manage our municipal business (community services). The program emphasized community sustainability through financial and environmental sustainability. Our municipal leaders are actively participating in the paradigm shift that will be necessary to transform our communities and our economies for the future.
And how did the three provincial leaders contribute to the dialogue? There was a common acknowledgement of the importance of municipal government in providing for their communities, and of a strong provincial municipal partnership. The key differences seemed primarily to relate to the degree of responsibility that every Ontario citizen must assume for the important changes that are necessary for our economic recovery and a sustainable environment.
The right decision may not be popular, but it’s a no-brainer for this observer. Let’s hope that voters in this fall’s provincial election view their choice through the lens of their individual responsibility for our economy, our society and our environment.