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The following is an exchange between Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry United Counties Council and Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy. It makes for interesting reading.
Reference: Shared Services - Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and City of Cornwall
Dear Mayor O'Shaughnessy and members of City Council:
We are writing this letter to you today to express our frustration with the current state of shared services between our municipalities.
By way of history, in the late 1990's, the County and City were forced by the provincial vernment to share a variety of services, including land ambulance, social services, child care and provincial offences administration. These services were not devolved at the same time, and consequently interim agreements were put in place incrementally to guide the transition and apportion costs between the parties. Those interim agreements are now largely obsolete. Furthermore, the cost sharing formulas developed during the time of transition have never been reviewed or amended.
The City delivers land ambulance, social services (including social housing), and child care to SDG residents while SDG delivers provincial offences administration on behalf of City residents. For context, in 2016, the County transferred over $7M to the City to deliver services to SDG residents. Provincial offences administration is a revenue generating service for both parties.
Recognizing the inadequacy and obsolescence of the transition and cost sharing agreements, in 2014-2015, the Shared Services or Joint Liaison Committee (comprised of elected representatives from the City and County) embarked on a process to develop a consolidated and modern shared services agreement, one that would serve as a blueprint for better cooperation, coordination, and service delivery between the parties.
Subsequent to the approval of a new shared services agreement, it was envisioned that the Committee would tackle the issue of cost sharing, to ensure that all formulas (there is one formula for each shared service) are fair and reflective of current conditions.
As a starting point, the City engaged the firm of KPMG to complete a comprehensive shared services review report. The final report provided an overview of current conditions, a comparative analysis of shared service agreements between other Ontario Counties and separated municipalities, areas of focus for a shared services agreement, and a summary of comparator agreements. This document was used by City and County officials as a base to develop a draft shared services agreement, of which there have been several iterations.
Unfortunately, City Council has not ratified a new agreement, and the process is now stalled. We understand the reason that the City has not ratified the agreement is because it is not in agreement with the inclusion of a dispute resolution clause which includes the right of either party to arbitrate if necessary.
This is frustrating and disappointing to the County, as the right of parties to arbitrate is a universally accepted concept designed to protect the interests of each party in the event that a dispute cannot be settled directly or through mediation. The City's position is contrary to many other shared services arrangements in place between Ontario Counties and the separated cities with whom they share services.
The City appears to have taken the stance that the decisions it makes regarding how it delivers services to SDG residents should be beyond challenge to a neutral third party. The County rejects this stance and welcomes the ability of both parties to arbitrate in instances where discussion or mediation cannot resolve a problem. The County demonstrated its commitment to transparency and fairness in the summer of 2016, when a new provincial offences inter-municipal service agreement, including a robust dispute resolution clause, was approved by the County, the City and all local SDG municipalities. POA administration is the responsibility of the County. The County was surprised recently to learn that City Council had asked senior staff to bring forward a report regarding the potential to share other municipal services with both local SDG municipalities and the County.
The County would only consider participating in such discussions in the event that a new agreement is reached regarding the services currently shared. We believe that a modernized shared services agreement will allow the City and County, via the Shared Services or Joint Liaison Committee, to more actively and transparently work together as true partners in the delivery of essential services to residents of our region. We believe there is currently an imbalance which must be addressed.
While it remains our hope that the County can renew its partnership with the City, we will review all possible service delivery alternatives to ensure the most effective delivery model for our residents.
Signed by the County Council members
Response from Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy:
Thank you for your letter dated March 6th, 2017. I share your frustration on moving this file forward but I do not agree that the City of Cornwall is the sole reason for the stalling of negotiations.
I'm sure that we can agree that the arbitration clause is a stumbling block and the tone of your letter would lead one to believe the City is to blame. Why? In any negotiations, when a party is to the far right side of an issue, it must be assumed that the other will be on the far left to allow for the parties to meet somewhere in the middle. At the Committee level, the Counties have adopted the position that a dispute resolution clause should cover everything, and everything will be subject to arbitration if the Counties do not agree. ln my view, that is nothing less than the Counties wanting to micro-manage by an arbitration clause the services that the City provides under an agreement with the Province of Ontario. That being said, at the Committee level, the City has consistently asked the Counties to list the items they wanted to be subject to arbitration for the City to review. To date, we have heard nothing from the Counties.
This is where your letter becomes real confusing as it seems to blame the City for further delays.
On December 16th, 2016, at your regular meeting, you passed a motion to approve in principle a draft Consolidated Municipal Service Management Agreement. On December 19th, 2016, you distributed your County Newsletter and sent it out to the media. lncluded in the newsletter was an article that stated you had passed the motion and would be forwarding it to us for consideration.
This being close to the holiday break, we can understand not having received a true copy of the motion and a true copy of the document that was passed. As time passed, with no word from you or County Administration, City staff reached out by email on January 12th, 2017 and requested a copy of what you approved. The content of that email exchange is as follows: “I understand that Counties Council passed a motion regarding an agreement at their last meeting. There's a City Council meeting on the 23rd. To make that, we would need something by Tuesday next week, just so you are aware."
Counties staff to City: “County Council adopted the agreement at their Dec. 2016 meeting. I'm waiting on direction from Council in terms of next steps before contacting the City."
On the morning of January 17, 2017, I had a meeting with a representative from the Counties in my office where I indicated that we had not received a true copy of the agreement that was passed in principle by Counties Council and we could not move forward until it was reviewed. It was also mentioned once again that we would need to know what would be subject to the arbitration clause. After this meeting, we had hoped we would receive a true copy of the agreement passed by your Council.
We have not. On or around January 20, 2017, a member of City staff contacted your staff to once again request a true copy of the agreement that was passed.
Counties staff indicated that we already had a copy in our file. We do not. As you can see, we have done all we can to obtain a true copy of the document you wished us to consider but for some reason, you are not prepared to give it to us.
Over the past week, we have searched email accounts and our regular mail registry and to this day, we have not received a true copy of the motion or the document that was passed by you. Yet the suggestion is made that the City is stalling. I think not.
Further to this, if you have sent the document to us and it was misplaced or accidentally deleted, I would be more than happy to apologize on behalf of the City and if you cannot provide us with the date that you sent notification, I would expect an apology from you for making false allegations against us.
Moving on, I would like to comment in regards to statements you have made in your letter. In paragraph 4 of your letter, you state that the agreement that is presently in place is a transitional agreement. This is incorrect. Transitional agreements would have an expiry date or a clause that would indicate that a review was required within a certain time period. Our current agreement does not have an expiry date nor a date for review.
In the seventh paragraph of your letter, you state that a new shared service agreement was signed between the City of Cornwall, the Counties and the Counties member municipalities. This is also an incorrect and misleading statement. On April 11th, 2016, a report went to Cornwall City Council based on your request to amend our agreement and allow for fines to be collected on property taxes. The City eventually agreed and the motion was passed. The original agreement dated December 18th, 2000 is still in place but was amended in April 2016 to allow this change. To my knowledge, nothing else was changed.
Finally, I must express my disappointment in regards to paragraph eight where you seem to insinuate that you would not be prepared to work with the City unless we agree with you. I think that statement is self-explanatory and I will wait until our Council has an opportunity to discuss your letter as a group before we reply.
As always, the City of Cornwall recognizes the important link that exists between the City and Counties and we look forward to working with you on issues of mutual concern both now and in the future.