Province ‘cutting red tape in local communities’
By Chad Ingram
The provincial government plans to cut or reduce many reporting requirements – nearly 100 of them – for municipalities across various sectors of municipal governance, a move the province says will allow local governments to focus on what really matters, which are the frontline services residents use every day.
During the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa last week, the government indicated that 94 reporting requirements have been targeted for elimination, and that there are plans to simplify or consolidate reporting requirements in 27 other areas. These include removing or reducing reporting requirements for everything from long-term care homes to cemeteries and crematoriums to “simplifying” an annual survey of public libraries. There are also plans to consolidate two reports under the Community Homeless Prevention Initiative, and to eliminate “auditor’s reporting requirement for government partners in the training, colleges and universities sector, except for organizations deemed to be high risk,” reads a release from the provincial government.
Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt told the Times until it becomes clear exactly what reporting requirements are being affected, it’s difficult to assess whether the changes will be beneficial.
“I’ve always referred to our governance requirements as a ‘thick soup of process’ so eliminating or reducing reporting requirements might be a good thing, but until we know exactly what these 94 reports are, it’s difficult to know if they’ll be helpful or harmful,” Moffatt wrote in an email. “There are circumstances where reporting feeds into civic accountability at all levels, and there are also circumstances where it just seems like pushing paper. Simplifying or streamlining could be a great thing, but if it negatively affects the safety of, and responsibility for, the greater good – particularly our most vulnerable, it will be problematic. If one less report somehow leads to a senior in long-term care or the future of an at-risk species being compromised then we should all be concerned.”
Moffatt said there was at least one change announced at last week’s conference that would be helpful for municipalities.
“Solicitor General Sylvia Jones announced during the Minister’s Forum that she will revoke the fire reporting requirements that Ontario fire chiefs don’t support, so there’s one elimination that’s helpful,” she wrote. “There are more questions than answers at the moment.”
County Warden Liz Danielsen said that while reducing some reporting requirements may be helpful, it could also be risky when it comes to areas such as the environment.
“The details of cutting red tape continue to be developed, and although we heard that dozens of reporting requirements have been dropped, or reduced in a variety of areas, we have not yet felt the impacts of those changes,” Danielsen told the Times in an email. “There is little doubt that municipal staff have been overburdened with reporting, often having to duplicate information for different departments and any reduction will reduce our workload, leaving room for local projects and work to be completed. However, there is considerable risk in reduced reporting in areas like the environment or on the extent of decision making that stays at the local level. Details of the changes will trickle down over the next few months.”
“Municipalities know how to make every dollar count because they know where it’s needed most,” Ford told delegates at the AMO conference. “The province inherited a massive debt and broken systems for health care, education, and social services from the previous government. The solution shouldn’t be imposing one-size-fits-all solutions from Queen’s Park. Rather, we should focus on giving our municipal partners more flexibility with their budgets to protect core services.”