Clark talks red tape, steers clear of controversy
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.
Clark did not address the matter, or Premier Doug Ford’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause in the wake of a court decision against the legislation, at the conference.
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 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 at the 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.
“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.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark speaks to delegates at the OEMC on Friday.