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Penetang’s Mayor Gerry Marshall Speaks About Shared Services

Penetang’s Mayor Gerry Marshall Speaks About Shared Services

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In his latest communique to the public and after, what can only be presumed to have been some unpleasant feedback from constituents, Penetanguishene’s Mayor Gerry Marshall authored the following open letter about his vision for shared services.  As no emails to him are ever answered, we publish this in the public interest as it concerns our community.   See below this article for some comments that we received as this story was still in draft – and chime in with your own thoughts if you wish.  He may not answer us but we know he’s reading us.

Gerry Marshall says –

“Please find below my open letter to the media regarding my personal perspective on sharing services amongst municipalities. 

I understand and appreciate that the words “shared services and resources” and “amalgamation” can bring an unsettled feeling to residents and ratepayers. It’s natural that there can be a fear of sharing and a fear of the unexplored. This fear may be that at some point, what can possibly be entertained is amalgamation – the joining of communities, services, and some argue even our community identities. But once you drop the “A” word, the debate will be based on emotion rather than evidence or potential outcomes.  Personally, I think that if the current councils and the councils of the 2018-22 council term continue to seek opportunities to share with one another, fill job vacancies with shared employees and that if that sharing proves to be beneficial, that citizens in both communities will eventually demand a formal consideration of a one-town, one-council scenario because they will have seen that it is only beneficial and there is no loss of community identity.  I suspect the 2022 election could be an interesting one.  

To be clear and until otherwise proven, I am not pro-amalgamation. I am pro sharing services and resources. I am pro contracted relationships that lead to greater efficiencies and cost savings for residents while improving services. Sharing does not have to be exclusively between Midland and Penetanguishene. Sharing needs to occur with the best fit partner(s).  The best fit may at times be one on one with Tiny, Tay, Midland or the County. In some cases, the best fit may be with all five of us working together. 

I point to the 2015 Fraser Institute publication by Professor Lydia Miljan and Post-Doctorate Fellow Zachary Spicer, who wrote that “the 1990s and 2000s were tumultuous decades for Ontario municipalities. Hundreds of municipalities across the provinces were amalgamated amid claims that restructuring would produce local governments that would be more efficient and less costly. Taxpayers, it was argued, would benefit from lower costs and lower taxes”. Many studies were conducted to  examine these claims, largely finding that the claimed benefits did not materialize.

Rather than looking at Ontario’s largest urban centers such as Toronto, Miljan and Spicer focused their attention on three smaller amalgamated municipalities – Haldimand-Norfolk, Essex, and Kawartha Lakes. Using data for the years 2000 to 2012 they compared various financial indicator trends to a number of comparable municipalities that were not amalgamated. 

Their analysis suggests amalgamation did not result in cost savings or lower property taxes in the cases they examined. Further, they found “significant increases in property taxes, compensation for municipal employees, and long-term debt in both amalgamated and unamalgamated communities suggesting that there was no tangible, financial benefit from amalgamation” and “in most cases, the per-household municipal tax burden increased” and “that spending on certain services and remuneration also increased significantly”.

One of the key learnings of the study was that the amalgamated communities made quick decisions about governance and servicing issues without the benefit of time or access to comparable information and best practices. This is why it was crucial that our shared service relationships with the Town of Midland (Transit/Fire/Building) were set as 24 month contracts. At the end of the 24 months, both councils will weigh the pros and the cons and make move-forward decisions based on evidence rather than speculation.  For me this is clearly the right approach. If sharing of services turns out as I sense it may, I would support a regional shared administration model that would allow us to remain as stand-alone municipalities complete with our own councils.

Brave New WorldSharing services and resources does not equal a loss of identity for Penetanguishene, nor does it equal a loss of our bilingual nature. We can still remain a town, we can still have our own council, we can still have our own policies and bylaws.  

With all this in mind, exploring the brave new world is the right thing to do and fearing the unexplored will only hinder us. We must seek today to do the right things at the right time and let the governance conversation naturally occur.

Gerry Marshall
Mayor Town of Penetanguishene,
Town (705)-549-7453″

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Comment(7)

  1. The concept is not a bad one, however, the Gerry Marshalls and Gord McKays of the world think that absolutely all municipal services are game; and that’s where the plan goes off the rails. Recently Gerry floated the idea of merging libraries ( Midland councillors found out about it from the media!!! ) He got a lot of push back and backed off; Libraries cannot be compared to sharing a CBO, or transportation and so do other services!

  2. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read this Open Letter – in fact I read it twice! Where was all this “inclusive thinking” a few years ago, when this same fellow scuttled the plan to combine Midland’s and Penetang’s policing needs? In fact, he lied about the figures that we presented, after much hard work by our police service members, mainly our Chief. A plan that Penetang asked our service to devise for the supposed benefit of both Towns.

    BTW, they were so naive that they even thought that the RCMP could actually be included in a possible scenario for servicing their Town.

    To have cited a ‘brave new world’ is perplexing. Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963) wrote a book which is known as ‘not a happy book’ wherein the free will of individuals is sacrificed in the interest of society. The real issue of Brave New World is that there will always exist those who use new technologies for personal gain; evil pursuits, and as an attempt to maintain power and control.

  3. I believe this analysis is likely true. You can see all around the impact of labour cartels on all public services. The deeper the pocket that results from amalgamation, the more money the cartels take. The only solution to these issues is decreased use of public services and increased use of private sector competition. For example, for what reason does our parks and recreation department not use private lawn care and gardening services when we have a dozen companies in the area offering their services for far less than employees cost? Our town has mismanaged police and fire budgets, and with that in mind we should get out of that business too since we are unable to manage it. Assign police and fire to the province or private sector. I suggest the province because they already have a station in Midland so what is the point of having duplicate services. Or if we are going to have six figure fire and police officers, then we can only afford fewer of them. Something has to give, and to stay the status quo in a no growth environment is ridiculous and indefensible. Town vehicles are all first class condition, you see them everywhere…beautiful new vehicles that make me think we are living in Beverley Hills. But we aren’t. And that is just one visible sign of what is wrong here.

    1. “Assign police and fire to the province or private sector” – can you elaborate on this? I am not sure I have heard of private security or private sector police in Canada and what authority they would have to perform those duties. What about private firefighting? Are you suggesting private “for profit” corporations take on the roles of public safety in Canada – or Midland? Interesting comment. Hope you can expand on your concepts.

      1. Private sector services like fire and police is an out there concept. But I’m sure if you said to the Midland Fire Department take 70% of the town FD budget and create a municipal fire service to manage Midlands fire response, I’m sure they would be able to keep all of their jobs, close to the same rate of pay, perform their duties as they are now and even make a profit for their effort while saving the corporation of Midland 30%. It’s an idea. And if they are good at it, they could pitch the idea to other towns and grow their business and incomes. Not sure that it would work with Police.

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Penetang’s Mayor Gerry Marshall Speaks About Shared Services

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