War of words
Although the United Counties of Stormont-DundasGlengarry and the City of Cornwall are currently at loggerheads over shared services, ratepayers shouldn’t be concerned that their services will be affected.
“The services have not been interrupted by this,” claims Myles Cassidy, General Manager of Shared Services.
Counties CAO Tim Simpson says that the city and the counties have been sharing services since the late 1990s, which is when the provincial government started pushing municipalities to share their services. Right now, the county government delivers provincial offences administration on behalf of city residents while the city delivers such services as land ambulance, social housing and child care to SDG residents.
In a recent interview with Mr. Simpson said that the shared service agreement between the two parties is now obsolete and that the counties would like to see an arbitration clause in the new agreement.
“There’s a shared services committee with members from both councils,” Mr. Simpson says. “Three years ago, we decided to bring forward a new agreement.”
He claims that the city has not ratified that agreement. On March 6, all 12 members of counties council signed a letter that was addressed to Cornwall city council, as well as its mayor, Leslie O’Shaughnessy, urging them to correct the matter.
“City council has not ratified a new agreement, and the process is now stalled,” the letter says. “We understand the reason that the City has not ratified the agreement is because it is not in agreement with the inclusion of a dispute resolution clause which includes the right of either party to arbitrate if necessary. This is frustrating and disappointing to the County, as the right of parties to arbitrate is a universally accepted concept designed to protect the interests of each party in the event that a dispute cannot be settled directly or through mediation. The City's position is contrary to many other shared services arrangements in place between Ontario Counties and the separated cities with whom they share services.”
Mr. Simpson pointed out that the counties transferred more than $7 million to the city in 2016, adding that the provincial offences administration is a revenue generating service for both parties. As such, he says that having an arbitration clause will help council be more accountable to taxpayers.
“We have an obligation,” he says. “If something happens in the future where we don’t think we’re being treated fairly, we want to be able to go to arbitration. We extend that right to the city and we’re just asking for the same thing.
In a March 14 letter addressed to county council, Mr. O’Shaughnessy disagreed that “the City of Cornwall is the sole reason for the stalling of negotiations.”
“At the committee level, the counties have adopted the position that a dispute resolution clause should cover everything, and everything will be subject to arbitration if the counties do not agree,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy writes. “In my view, that is nothing less than the counties wanting to micro-manage by an arbitration clause the services that the City provides under an agreement with the Province of Ontario.”
Mr. O’Shaughnessy further pointed out that at its December, 2016 meeting, counties council approved a draft consolidated municipal service management agreement. He claims that the city has never seen that draft agreement.
“Over the past week, we have searched email accounts and our regular mail registry and to this day, we have not received a true copy of the motion or the document that was passed by you,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy writes. “Yet the suggestion is made that the City is stalling. I think not.” For his part, Mr. Simpson says that the mayor’s letter hasn’t changed the counties’ mind on the importance of an arbitration clause. He says that council has given him direction to explore other options of service delivery. They include maintaining a partnership with the city, partnering with other municipalities, or delivering them all in-house.