Orangeville officials optimistic after spending week at AMO in Ottawa

August 23, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Fibre-optic high-speed internet, the potential commercialization of traffic ticketing and updates to the Ontario Police Services Act were some of the key takeaways Orangeville’s delegation will bring home with them following four days in Ottawa for the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference.

Mayor Sandy Brown was joined by Coun. Lisa Post and CAO Ed Brennan in the nation’s capital for the event, which he described as “a wonderful opportunity for municipalities to gather, network and learn about their successes and best practices”.

During their days away, the trio sat in on various presentations, forums and delegations with both provincial and federal ministers with a view to potentially bringing some new ideas and information back to Orangeville.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford gave a “very positive” speech, according to Mayor Brown, regarding transition funding that will available to municipalities in 2020, while question and answer forums involving Health Minister Christine Elliott and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney were described as “interesting”, without being particularly informative about potential new programs or initiatives. 

The big takeaway for Mayor Brown came from what, on the face of it, appeared to be a minor seminar put on by the Mayor and CAO of Centre Wellington regarding asset management. 

“As a municipality, you have to constantly worry about maintenance projects and the growth of infrastructure. The province has mandated that every municipality now come up with an asset management plan – the first step is determining exactly what assets you have, which would be quite a substantial undertaking in the case of any municipality,” Mayor Brown said.

“Having such a plan in place will come as a huge help as municipalities come into budget season. It would help with managing general things such as road resurfacing projects, equipment purchases, and prioritizing larger projects. We would be able to see years in advance regarding what projects need to be done and when.”

Mayor Brown indicated that was something Town Staff would be working on in the near future. After talking to officials from Centre Wellington about the process they have in place over there, he indicated he’d like to see something similar adopted here in Orangeville.

“I truly believe we need to look at other successes municipalities have. I said it during the election campaign and I’ll say it again, while plagiarism is not so great in education, I think it’s a positive thing in government. When a municipality has gotten something right, why wouldn’t you want to follow suit?” Mayor Brown stated.

On his first day in Ottawa, Mayor Brown had the opportunity to chat with Mike Schreiner, MPP for Guelph and leader of the Green Party of Ontario.

The duo embarked on a two-hour tour of Ottawa’s bike and trail system, with Mayor Brown indicating those were areas he’d like to see improved here in Orangeville. 

Getting into the “nitty gritty”, Mayor Brown discussed changes that have been proposed for the Police Service Act here in Ontario. The big takeaway from those changes, Mayor Brown said, is the increased power local Police Services Boards will play in OPP detachments moving forward.

“One of the things being debated right now by people who are pro-OPS is that local Police Service Boards don’t have the same power under the OPP umbrella. Changes that are being proposed to that Act will give more policy-making power and direction to localized PSBs over detachment commanders,” Mayor Brown said. “I think it’s a good change. It puts the power back into the people, rather than in hands exclusively of the police force.”

While on the topic of policing, Mayor Brown delved into the potential commercialization of traffic tickets in the future. One seminar the local mayor attended focused on fitting buses with cameras, which would catch drivers breaking simple road laws, such as stopping at stop signs. The organization behind that idea, Bus Patrol, noted its business plan would be to offer this technology to municipalities for no up-front cost. Rather, the company would reclaim on its investment through tickets that are issues as a result of their cameras.

“They’re waiting for legislation to come down that will allow for this commercialization of tickets, so that they can then cut deals with municipalities,” Mayor Brown said. “I think it’s a neat idea. They install these cameras and then have people sat behind a computer who study video that comes in. As it was explained to us, the company would package any evidence and send it off to local police, who would issue tickets and then recoup that money until such a time that their initial outlay on technology is recovered.”

He added, “On the face of it, this is something that wouldn’t cost the town a dime and would (have the bi-product) of making our roads a safer place.”

Coun. Lisa Post had the opportunity to attend a meeting set up by Dufferin County Warden Darren White and CAO Sonya Pritchard regarding housing issues in the region. She also mentioned a seminar focusing on municipal best-practices, led by Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility of Ontario, and Minister roundtable discussing new policies and reforms coming down the pipeline

“I had some really great takeaways from AMO. Perhaps most valuable to me, outside of the great networking opportunities, were hearing some great best practices in accessibility from Minister Cho, as well as best practices and discussion around creating inclusive communities,” Coun. Post stated.

Mayor Brown recalls a discussion he had with a councillor representing Newmarket. That particular city has had some success setting up its own high-speed internet installation company called Envi. A subsidiary of Newmarket Hydro, the organization is responsible for laying the majority of the high-speed fibre internet lines in the community. While the initial investment would be high, Mayor Brown says he could see a significant pay-off in the future if Orangeville were to decide to follow a similar path.

“Initial outlay was something like $5 million or $6 million, but as the system starts to build out, companies would actually pay for installation and then income would start to roll in,” Mayor Brown said. “On top of that, it would actually be (a wise) investment from the Town.”

He added, “Pockets of Orangeville right now have what I would call medium speed internet. Internet itself is an economic driver – companies look at that right away when deciding where they will or won’t set up. If you don’t have ultra-high speed internet these days, a lot of businesses won’t even look at you as an option.”

“I had a meeting with a consultant ten days ago regarding this sort of initiative and it’s something I feel we as a town should have further discussions about,” Mayor Brown concluded.


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