Put local governance back in the hands of municipalities
You will find some details in the Springwater Council Corner article in the Springwater News outlining some activities at an OGRA/ROMA conference that I, the Deputy Mayor and some senior management attended recently. The conference did make me think about some things beyond my immediate Springwater boundary after listening to some of the Provincial Ministers at the various sessions. With that in mind here are some thoughts and questions.
Ontario is faced with challenging financial times and its debt servicing absorbs a lot of funds that could be better spent on actual services. Quite often I hear at Springwater Council and also at Simcoe County Council that we should have more funding to do this or that from higher levels of government. We at the municipal level have had numerous things downloaded from the province over the last 20 years. Unfortunately for all of us there is only one taxpayer and I believe the Province has run out of money, so we can’t depend on them in the future. We as local politicians must focus on controlling costs and finding our own sources of revenue. The best thing the Province could do is put the actual governance of our local municipalities back in our hands instead of having Ministries like Municipal Affairs and Housing and Infrastructure and agencies such as the OMB decide what is good for us.
I know no one wants to ever question the subject of health care, as we all need it, but it is a Provincial responsibility. Since that is the case why has the County provided Capital Funding for local hospitals to the tune of $60,000,000 over the last 20 years. To me that is an extra tax being applied to the hard working people of our area. I also question why we as a township pay money into physician recruitment for local hospitals but see no direct doctors setting up shop in our local communities.
What about our education system? Does it make sense that by using some Ministry of Education formulas and area review committees, that schools like Penetanguishene High School or Barrie Central are closed and the protests of the area residents fall on deaf ears. Here is another question. Does Barrie really need another university when it has a well established College of 50 years that has created a very effective University Partnership Centre offering a variety of degree courses and by their own admission could handle another 5,000 student intake? I ask that question as we are already funding a new university in Orillia. Is that not enough?
It would be nice to have hospitals and universities on every corner like fast food outlets, but we can’t afford it. As governments, we need to focus on what people actually need rather than what would be nice to have. Until then, we will continue on a downward spiral.
Over the next four years I plan to ask these questions of the higher levels of government. You need to ask the same questions of your local MP and MPP.
Now back to our township. As a Springwater Council we are only as good as you make us. Keep informed and email or phone us regularly. I appreciate the calls and visits I have had on a variety of issues that range from flooding in back yards, fallen trees, extension of Barrie Transit into Midhurst, to the lack of high speed internet in some of our communities. In each case I follow through and engage others when necessary. In some cases, the answer I or someone on the Springwater management team provides is not what the person would like to hear, but we will be straight with you; that I promise.
I encourage you as individuals and local advocacy groups to engage our elected officials at all levels of government and start pushing back. We live in a wonderful community, township, county, province and country, but if we don’t start focusing on reality, we will leave a legacy that is not very promising for our future generations. We all need to speak up!
On a positive note we will be hosting our first Town Hall meeting in Elmvale to listen to your opinions on what is important to you and your community. The date will be set shortly.
Contact me at 705-728-4784 ext. 2040 or my cell at 705-718-7031 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on twitter @MayorFrench. Link to My View blog
Bill French is the Mayor of Springwater.