Clark says he’ll cut red tape

Clos­ing ad­dress at mu­nic­i­pal con­fer­ence from Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - FRONT PAGE - ALAN S. HALE

The On­tario East Mu­nic­i­pal Con­fer­ence (OEMC) wrapped up on Fri­day morn­ing with a speech by Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Steve Clark, who promised del­e­gates the PC gov­ern­ment would have an “open and hon­est di­a­logue” with their com­mu­ni­ties.

“I want to make sure that you have con­stant ac­cess to the prov­ince; whether it be to my­self, my team, our staff. We want to make sure you are ac­ces­si­ble to us,” said Clark. “You are the gov­ern­ments clos­est to the peo­ple, you have the pulse of your com­mu­nity, you know what is go­ing on in your neigh­bour­hoods.”

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the speech, Clark and his par­lia­men­tary as­sis­tant Jim McDonell left to re­turn to Queen’s Park to con­tinue work­ing to pass a bill to cut Toronto’s city coun­cil over the protests of that mu­nic­i­pal­ity. But the three-day OEMC was fo­cused specif­i­cally on east­ern On­tario and its is­sues, and the drama go­ing on in the me­trop­o­lis was not top-of-mind for the del­e­gates.

Clark him­self is a former mayor of Brockville and joked he is still bi­ased in favour of east­ern On­tario, even as Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter.

“It’s not just where I started my po­lit­i­cal ca­reer; it’s also my home. It’ s where I learned about the im­por­tant role of local gov­ern­ment and how you respect hard-work­ing tax­pay­ers,” he said. “While I am fa­mil­iar with the is­sues and chal­lenges of this re­gion, I un­der­stand that I need to lis­ten to your con­cerns and learn from you be­cause – let’s face it – I don’t have all the an­swers.”

The gov­ern­ment does feel it has some of the an­swers though when it comes to ad­dress­ing hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity con­cerns

Clark an­nounced the PCs are go­ing to in­crease af­ford­abil­ity by grow­ing the sup­ply of new hous­ing units. To make that hap­pen, the gov­ern­ment is go­ing to make it eas­ier to build by elim­i­nat­ing some of the re­ports and other dis­clo­sures mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties they are re­quired to file with the prov­ince.

The min­is­ter would not pro­vide specifics on what re­port­ing re­quire­ments are go­ing to be elim­i­nated, but when pressed, said con­cerns were raised Association of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of On­tario (AMO) con­fer­ence that there is a lot of du­pli­ca­tion of in­for­ma­tion when fil­ing re­ports to dif­fer­ent pro­vin­cial de­part­ments.

“I’m not go­ing to out any min­istry here to­day ... But there are some re­ports that in some cases are sim­i­lar be­tween de­part­ments, and some that are asked for on a monthly ba­sis, ev­ery six months, or ev­ery five years and they are all very sim­i­lar,” he said. “We ask for per­for­mance mea­sures, ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures for in­fra­struc­ture projects; we ask for a lot of in­for­ma­tion. My min­istry will lead that in­ter-min­is­te­rial dis­cus­sion.

Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Steve Clark

“We want to free up time for each time for each mu­nic­i­pal­ity to do what they do best: de­liv­er­ing ser­vices your res­i­dents want. Not fill­ing out forms over and over again to dif­fer­ent min­istries giv­ing the same in­for­ma­tion.”

When it came time for ques­tions from del­e­gates, Coun. Deb­bie Lynch from Aspho­del-Nor­wood asked if there would be pro­vin­cial fund­ing for fa­cil­i­ties such as fire halls. Clark said the prov­ince is work­ing with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on a bi­lat­eral agree­ment and that he wasn’t sure when the feds would make those an­nounce­ments.

Mayor Ron Hig­gins of North Fron­tenac wanted to know when the next pro­vin­cial bud­get would be ready. Clark re­sponded said the au­dit of the gov­ern­ment’s fi­nances is con­tin­u­ing and he is not sure when they will be ready for a bud­get, al­though there will be a fall eco­nomic state­ment at some point.

Reeve Wal­ter Stack from Arn­prior asked if the PCs would re­con­sider plans to dis­con­tinue the rental sub­sidy pro­gram in 2021, a de­ci­sion he called dis­heart­en­ing. Clark said they would not.

The So­cial Hous­ing Apart­ment Im­prove­ment Pro­gram is tied into the pro­vin­cial cap-and-trade, which means it will be af­fected when the gov­ern­ment pulls out of the ca­pand-trade sys­tem and those plans will not be re­con­sid­ered. ahale@post­media.com

We want to free up time for each time for each mu­nic­i­pal­ity to do what they do best: de­liv­er­ing ser­vices your res­i­dents want.

ALAN S. HALE /CORN­WALL STAN­DARD-FREEHOLDER

Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Steve Clark speaks to del­e­gates at the OEMC on Fri­day.

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