A municipal delegation comprised of Mayor Steve Ferguson along with several councillors recently ventured to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Ottawa. Councillors in attendance were Councillors Andreas Bolik, Mike Harper, John Hirsch, Ernie Margetson, Janice Maynard, Phil St. Jean, along with Acting CAO Robert McAuley
The municipal delegation joined approximately 2,000 other participants at the conference that has been held annually for over a century. This year, the event took place from August 18-21.
Key session topics included cyber security, cannabis legalization, local economies in transition, changes to the health care system, recycling and the rise of plastics, affordable housing, municipal policing, rural economic development, climate change and addressing social and health problems facing communities.
The conference boasted the Ontario Premier, Minister of Municipal Affairs as well as three party leaders as featured speakers. The AMO Conference is intended to help municipalities overcome challenges by tying together the municipal, provincial and federal governments.
Mayor Steve Ferguson spoke to the Gazette after the event to relay some of what had been discussed. Reportedly, one of the ideas he brought forth was that of a levy to be imposed upon visitors to Sandbanks Provincial Park, with the proceeds potentially going towards recovering the burden placed on roads and other infrastructure by a high volume of tourists.
“The idea actually goes back quite some time. The former Liberal Government of the province had a firm and flat ‘no’ to any discussion,” stated Ferguson. “I brought the idea forward again after I was elected and I broached the topic with MPP Todd Smith who, generally speaking, didn’t say ‘no’.”
From speaking with MPP Smith regarding this proposed levy, Mayor Ferguson noted he has had various discussions throughout the ministry with several people, including MPP Dave Smith, who is currently undertaking a business plan review for all the provincial parks.
The mayor is careful to add that any discussion of a levy to recover infrastructure costs would have to flow through the provincial government’s regulatory process.
“This isn’t a simple process of making some adjustments at the cash register at Sandbanks. It has to go through the various departments within the ministry to figure out how it can be done, what impact it may have and how it may impact other provincial parks,” said Ferguson.
“I think the point is that I intend to keep having those conversations because I think it’s reasonable that we receive something for the tens of thousands of people that travel to the County and use our roadways and infrastructure,” added Ferguson.
Though Mayor Ferguson asserts his intent is to only charge visitors a levy, he also contends that the way in which any proposed levy would be allocated is essentially up to the provincial government.
“The province might have something to say (about this) but my thought is the additional levy would not be charged to residents of Prince Edward County, who in many ways are already paying for infrastructure repair and upkeep,” stated Ferguson.
As Mayor Ferguson points out, there is no timeline to impose a levy, but right now his objective is to keep such a levy as a topic of conversation going forward.