Fonthill Kame, Cannabis, and Senior Campuses at AMO Conference
Last week, Councillor Accursi, Councillor Papp, Town CAO Ottaway, and I attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Ottawa. The annual three-day conference offered a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities for the more than 1,500 delegates.
While at AMO, your Pelham representatives also met with various Ministries to directly advanced your interests with the Provincial Government.
We met with Hon. Jeff Yurek, MPP, Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF), and Toby Barrett, MPP, Parliamentary Assistant, about maintaining and increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame. Over the last 10 years, we effectively used AMO and “Niagara Week” meetings to urge the Province to enhance the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) protections of the Kame. For the last few years we thanked the Provincial Government for finalizing those protections in late-2013. Now, we asked to work together with MRN Staff to add more of the Fonthill Kame to the protections offered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan.
We are delighted that Minister Yurek indicated that the Government would not be changing the ANSI protections! We look forward to working together on further safeguards.
We also met with Hon. Steve Clark, MPP, Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing, about Provincial funding. We encouraged the government to fund municipal projects that help create wealth and prosperity for a community; we spoke not only about projects like downtown revitalizations but also community and cultural facilities like community centres and libraries. We also discouraged the government from investing in projects that create more sprawl – like urban boundary expansions or “smart centers” disconnected from community. Ministry Staff indicated that they could work with the Town on these issues.
The Minister also informed us about his planned review of Regional governments following this Fall’s municipal elections; we indicated that Niagara would definitely want to participate. This was consistent with his message earlier in the conference when he shared his focus in working with local governments: cut red tape, increase the housing supply, reduce unnecessary reporting, strengthen regional governments, and find efficiencies.
We also listened to the three party leaders. Premier Ford acknowledged that Cities and Towns are “closest to the people” and stated that the Government had no plans for Toronto-type election reform on other cities “in the near future.” The Premier ended his speech talking about his Government by stating: “A new day has dawned in Ontario.”
Obviously AMO also many includes educational sessions and panel discussions.
Because of Pelham Council’s ongoing work, I especially appreciated the panel about “campus-style” approaches for Long-Term Care and retirement homes. We can use some of these suggestions to further enhance Pelham’s plans for a new medical centre, new seniors affordable housing, new senior’s apartments, a retirement residence, and a long-term care facility in Fonthill. Scheduled to start over the next year, these new housing and service developments are planned around the new Community Centre, Wellspring Niagara’s new Regional Cancer Support Centre, and the new stores and restaurants.
I also attended an information session about “Cannabis and Communities” – where the Provincial representative shared that one of the “first orders of business” for a Council will be to decide whether to “opt-out” of allowing recreational cannabis retail outlets in their City or Town.
Finally, I was pleased to attend a session by representatives of Petrolia, Sioux Lookout, and East Gwillimbury about ways in which they worked with neighbouring communities to combine services to residents and businesses or find efficiencies in those services. I am committed to helping these types of discussions among the cities and towns across the Niagara Peninsula.
Not only did the AMO Conference encourage your Pelham delegates to use “best practices” and reach higher goals, we also used it as a tremendous opportunity to advance your interests with Provincial Ministries and build relationships with other municipal leaders.