By Darren Lum
Published March 21 2017
Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin told attendees at the Warden’s Breakfast on Tuesday March 7 that the county should take the lead in finding health-care solutions.
Devolin’s audience was comprised of chamber members and county staff at the Rhubarb Restaurant in Carnarvon.
He asked them to be part of the process to find a local resolution for health care referring to it as the “elephant in the room.”
“I don’t think that serves us very well and I think we need to start a discussion for a made-in-Haliburton County solution. Does it mean we’re not going to do some things the way we exactly do them right now? You betcha but it is necessary and this is important” he said.
The pressures are real. From 2013 to 2016 Haliburton County Emergency Medical Services reported 19.5 per cent increase in calls for service. This rate of increase is likely to continue he said because of the aging population in the county. He said this discussion will need to include everyone because the way health care is delivered now is not sustainable.
Devolin also welcomes discussion about the ongoing deliberation on extending the warden’s tenure beyond one year and the consideration for a deputy.
As the county deliberates on the 2017 budget he announced there will be increased investments in infrastructure such as roads EMS and libraries.
He also told the audience about the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus.
With a representation of a million people under the direction of mayors and wardens in eastern Ontario these small communities “punch way above our weight” for short and long terms initiatives.
As a group the caucus has the power to garner attention from provincial and federal politicians.
Among the advantages of the caucus: advancements for our area in terms of connectivity power and addressing issues such as reducing costs specifically related to the rising cost of the OPP.
There is a possibility that in the next five years there will be a natural gas pipeline in the county.
“You could look forward to that. Again if we weren’t part of a larger body like the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus there’s no way this would ever happen. I’m not saying it is a 50/50 proposition or anything I’m just saying I’m significantly optimistic and we’ll keep you posted as we go along” he said. “That will be a huge win for the future development of our county.”
According to Statistics Canada Devolin said the county is growing at a greater rate than the province particularly along the Hwy. 35 corridor. There are good and bad aspects related to this growth. Good in that there will be more money here and a greater potential for year-round employment in the county. However more people means greater pressures on municipal services. Some of them will be converting seasonal residences for year-round use.
This growth however will not alter the way MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) assesses properties which is related to how the county and the municipalities receive funding. The “lion’s share” of the funding comes from that assessment so more people doesn’t mean more funding. There will be a gap Devolin said. It means greater burdens on the municipalities and likely increase to land-based taxes.
He said the tax rates for the county are among the best in rural Ontario and this will be considered in making decisions. However costs will rise.
“The days of two and three per cent tax increases you’re not going to see for a decade. I’m not saying I think they’re going to jump to 10 per cent but do I think you’re going to see a lot of four five or six or seven for the next decade. I would expect that to be the norm unless some funding policies or whatever significantly change from what we see today and what we perceive to be coming for the not too distant future” he said.