Counties warden caught off guard by new accountability legislation

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By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - United Counties Warden Eric Duncan is concerned about the red tape being created as a result of wide-ranging accountability rules announced by Queen's Park.

United Counties Warden Eric Duncan.

Premier Kathleen Wynne stated the sweeping legislation, which would give Ontario's ombudsman new powers to investigate municipalities, school boards, and publicly funded universities, is a way to ensure an open, accountable, and accessible government.

The Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) sees it differently. They consider it an attempt to micromanage municipal government.

Duncan agrees.

"I'm all for accountability, but I want to make sure that it's sensible because we're already doing it at the municipal level, we already have a lot of measures in place," said Duncan.

If the legislation passes, municipalities would have to revamp their current process of reviewing service delivery complaints or have them investigated by Ombudsman Andre Marin.

The counties warden stated that he's anxious to know what it will cost to fulfill these new responsibilities.

"We have a lot of measures in place in terms of service delivery that we do as an organization. So, I'm quite concerned about the level of involvement from staff or the amount of money and time it's going to take to do this," said Duncan. "I'm always paranoid of the frivolous requests that come in."

He feels the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry (SDG) are getting a mixed message from the provincial government.

Duncan was one of several representatives of the United Counties who recently returned from the annual Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Conference in Toronto.

An event he considers an opportune time to lobby the government and create awareness, particularly in advance of the provincial budget.

Duncan noted that while at the conference, Brampton-Springdale MPP Linda Jeffries said she sees the municipal government as a mature partner.

"To say that last week and then to put these big sweeping changes in a week later – yeah, it caught us off guard or by surprise I would say," he said.

Click here to read more details about the Ontario government's proposed accountability legislation.

Organizations: Association of Municipalities Ontario, Rural Ontario Municipal Association

Geographic location: Ontario, Toronto

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