PUBLIC INFORMATION CAMPAIGN AD HOC COMMITTEE
M I N U T E S PIC-2007-1
The Public Information Campaign (PIC)
Ad Hoc Committee met on April 19, 2007, at 11:27 a.m. in the Council Chamber,
Regional Administrative Headquarters, 10 Peel Centre Dr., Brampton.
|Members:||G. Carlson, A. Groves, E. Kolb, C. Parrish, J. Sanderson, A. Thompson|
K. Ward, Acting Chief Administrative Officer; R. K. Gillespie, Commissioner of Corporate Services and Regional Solicitor; D. Labrecque, Treasurer and Commissioner of Finance; J. Menard, Acting Commissioner of Social Services; J. Smith, Acting Commissioner of Health; C. Thomson, Legislative Specialist
C. Thomson, Legislative Specialist presided.
1. ELECTION OF CHAIR AND VICE CHAIR
That Councillor Parrish be appointed Chair of the Public Information Campaign Ad Hoc Committee for a term ending October 10, 2007 or until a successor is appointed by Regional Council;
And further, that Councillor Sanderson be appointed Vice-Chair of the Public Information Campaign Ad Hoc Committee for a term ending October 10, 2007 or until a successor is appointed by Regional Council.
Councillor Parrish assumed the Chair.
2. APPROVAL OF AGENDA
That the agenda for the April 19, 2007 Public Information Campaign Ad hoc Committee, be approved.
3. REVIEW OF COMMITTEE TERMS OF REFERENCE
That the Public Information Campaign (PIC) Ad hoc Committee Terms of Reference be amended to indicate that reports (minutes) of each PIC Committee meeting be placed on the following General Committee agenda, under items related to Management, for receipt or consideration of any recommendations contained therein.
Committee recessed at 12:23 p.m.
Committee reconvened at 12:38 p.m.
Members Present: G. Carlson, A. Groves", E. Kolb, C. Parrish, A. Thompson
Members Absent: J. Sanderson, due to other municipal business
a) Financial Overview
Presentation by Dan Labrecque, Treasurer and Commissioner of Finance
Dan Labrecque, Treasurer and Commissioner of Finance provided an overview of how the Region of Peel 2007 budget of $1.3 billion is paid. He noted that 52 per cent of the annual budget is paid for through property taxes, 20 per cent through grants, 16 per cent through the utility bill and 12 per cent from other sources. The property tax portion includes police services and programs mandated by the Province. The Treasurer further noted that income re-distributive programs are being carried by the property tax and that the Province is not adequately supporting growth municipalities. The Province also downloaded three programs as part of the 1998 "Local Services Realignment" process which require payment by the Region without having any say in their operations. Costs related to the Toronto Tax, Municipal Property Assessment Corporation and the Ontario Disability Support Program amount to approximately $107.7 million in 2007, or $239 per household.
The Treasurer noted that while the provincially announced promise to eliminate the Toronto Tax by 2013 is good news, the impact will be spread out between 2008 and 2013. He further noted that to date, there is no indication about what the Province will do to address the amounts still owed by the Regions of Peel and York. The Treasurer advised that the amounts held by Peel will be held in abeyance until a response is received from the Province, at which time staff will report to Regional Council with a position.
Councillor Thompson questioned whether the Region would be required to pay more for the Ontario Works program, should the Province enter into a recession and was advised by the Treasurer that the Region is responsible for 20 per cent of the cost of cases, regardless of the number of cases.
Regional Chair Kolb noted that public perception is that government administration costs are high, but in reality, private service providers can cost more and he enquired if research had been conducted to confirm that position. He suggested that the public should be made aware that when services are at their most reasonable with regard to costs, it is often government organizations that provide the service.
Regional Chair Kolb further stated that growth and immigration are areas that affect the Regional budget, they should be funded by the Province, not the taxpayer. He noted the challenge in communicating these concerns is ensuring the message received by taxpayers is not one that suggests we do not want to provide the services, but that the needs cannot be met due to growth components not being funded by the Province.
Regional Chair Kolb requested that staff compare funding formulas with other jurisdictions and determine what percentage of costs should be funded by municipalities, the Province and the federal government.
Chair Parrish cautioned against getting into too much detail with respect to the issues to be addressed by the PIC Ad hoc Committee, noting that the Committee will be working within a short timeframe, given the provincial election date of October 10, 2007.
Chair Parrish noted that Ontarians pay $600 to $700 more in property taxes per household, than residents of other provinces, and that is an issue that needs to be brought to the attention of the taxpayers. She suggested maps depicting the property taxes across the country would be effective in illustrating the inequities facing Ontarians.
Councillor Groves stated her agreement with the statements made by Chair Parrish, noting that the public needs to know that we are responsible and accountable for providing services, but we do not have control over funding.
Councillor Carlson suggested that if messaging is too complicated, taxpayers will not pay attention and in his opinion, the focus should be on fairness. He enquired if it had been determined how much it would cost to fix the funding imbalance with the Province.
The Treasurer and Commissioner of Finance advised that it would cost approximately $3 billion across the province. It is expected that from 2008 to 2013, Peel's costs for Pooling would be approximately $150 million, plus the $6l+million that we expect to pay this year.
Chair Parrish suggested that a four-pronged approach is needed to effectively communicate with the public on the issue of the funding imbalance. A comparison of downloading by the Province of Ontario with other provincial governments; the impact the funding imbalance has had on growth areas; a snapshot of who actually suffers the most as a result of the imbalance; and the issue of fairness, where a home with four wage earners pays the same property tax as homes with two wage earners, or seniors.
Regional Chair Kolb requested that staff prepare a mock brochure, and information based on the four points identified by the Committee Chair for discussion at the next meeting of the Public Information Campaign Ad hoc Committee.
b) Concurrent Advocacy Campaigns
Presentation by Andrea Warren, Strategic Policy Project Manager, Executive Office
Andrea Warren, Strategic Policy Project Manager, highlighted several initiatives currently underway to address the fiscal imbalance. She noted that the Province of Ontario has a campaign calling for an end to the federal-provincial imbalance, which the Region of Peel supported by resolution. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has an advocacy kit available on their website, under the heading "Shaping our Future" which supports their report titled "Building Prosperity from the Ground Up: Restoring Municipal Fiscal Balance".
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has launched a website under the heading "Ontario's $3 billion Provincial Municipal Fiscal Gap" which invites municipalities to post specific information and letters of support.
In addition, the Region of Halton has initiated a public awareness campaign called "Fairness for Halton"; York Region has posted information on their website calling for "fair funding for Community Social Services in York Region"; the City of Toronto launched their "One Cent of the GST Now" campaign and the Strong Communities Coalition has highlighted the widening funding gap between the GTA/905 areas and the rest of Ontario. The GTAH Mayors and Regional Chairs group met to discuss an "Under-funding Campaign" and will be meeting again later in April.
Committee Chair Parrish noted that candidates in the provincial election may not know all the numbers associated with the funding imbalance and providing them with relevant information may assist in bringing the matter to their attention.
Councillor Carlson suggested Premier McGuinty be invited to a Regional Council meeting to discuss his perspective on the issue as he is the person with the authority to effect change.
Councillor Thompson suggested that a list of questions be prepared for Peel-area MPPs to ask in caucus to assist in getting concrete answers on some of the points raised.
c) Previous Public Information Campaign and Associated Costs
Presentation by Kent Gillespie, Commissioner of Corporate Services and Regional Solicitor and Marilyn Hood, Director, Communication Services
Councillor Groves departed at 1:13 p.m.
R. Kent Gillespie, Commissioner of Corporate Services and Regional Solicitor introduced Marilyn Hood, Director, Communications Services to provide an overview of a previous advocacy campaign launched by Peel titled "Behind the 8 Ball". The purpose of the campaign was to make Peel residents aware of the pooling concept and to generate calls by residents to their MPP. Marilyn Hood noted that the campaign included the direct mail of 270,000 brochures to taxpayers, advertisements in local papers, news releases, and "letters to the editor" by Councillors.
The campaign resulted in a total of 325 calls to the "pooling line" and 148 e-mails. In addition, the Regional Chair's office was contacted by MPPs for additional information and form letters were sent by MPPs in response to inquiries from constituents. The general assessment of the campaign strategy was that it received fairly good media coverage in that key messages were reported but it had limited "penetration" in terms of response from citizens.
Marilyn Hood also noted that the campaign was more of a government relations campaign than public relations and suggested the current approach should be Ontario-wide. She suggested the PIC Ad hoc Committee consider using a leadership debate format at the August AMO Conference, followed by regional debates.
R. Kent Gillespie noted that the PIC Ad hoc Committee currently does not have a budget which would need to be addressed prior to the retention of consultants to prepare a media campaign.
Chair Parrish questioned whether Peel has the talent in-house to undertake the project as opposed to retaining external consultants and was advised by the Commissioner that diverting staff to this issue would result in other programs having to pay for external assistance.
Regional Chair Kolb noted that aside from the budget issue, more work needs to be done to determine what the desired outcomes are.
d) Next Steps
Chair Parrish requested that staff prepare information related to the following headings for discussion at the next meeting of the PIC Ad hoc Committee:
" a comparison of downloading of social services by the Province of Ontario
with other provincial governments;
" the impact the funding imbalance has had on growth areas;
" a snapshot of who actually suffers the most as a result of the imbalance;
" the issue of fairness, where a home with four wage earners pays the same property tax as homes with two wage earners, or seniors, identified a summary of concepts that could be utilized to bring attention to the funding concerns, including a regional debate for provincial election candidates.
Staff was further requested to prepare a summary of concepts that could be utilized to draw attention to the funding concerns, including a Regional debate for provincial election candidates.
5. COMMUNICATIONS - Nil
6. OTHER BUSINESS - Nil
7. SCHEDULE OF FUTURE MEETINGS
That the next meeting of the Public Information Campaign Ad hoc Committee be held on May 10, 2007, immediately following Regional Council.
The meeting adjourned at 1:33 p.m.