THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay’s Chamber of Commerce is voicing its support of a letter sent by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, urging the government to make changes to the provincial arbitration process.
The letter states that the costs of essential services, such as police and fire, have increased three times over the rate of inflation in the past 15 years.
Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce president Charla Robinson believes the costs are unsustainable for municipalities.
“They have been calling for quite some time for changes for the arbitration process, and we are getting behind them and supporting their call for changes,” Robinson said.
“We are calling for reforms to the system that would reflect the capacity of the municipalities to pay for the settlement that would relate to the increased labour costs to improve efficiency by requiring that the arbritation decision is delivered in less than 12 months.”
Robinson said they have heard some instances that have gone on for years sometimes four or five years where municipalities have been hit with a decision and have to pay a difference in wages for that time period.
They also hope to improve accountability and transparency for taxpayers.
“We think that the arbitration, when they make the decision it needs to provide an explanation on how they came to that decision – rather than here’s the amount and nobody knows where the decision came from,” she said.
Robinson said they’ve heard for many years that one of the city’s biggest increases in the budget is the cost of emergency services.
“We think that it’s time for the government to respond to the calls from the Association of the Municipalities of Ontario and now the chamber is adding our voice of support to them to take a look at the system.”
Robinson said this is a major issue that impacts every single municipal tax payer and it should be addressed immediately.
“If they look to see what’s happening, a lot of those municipalities and those tax payers can look back to this arbitration system and see how it’s negatively impacted the community,” she said.
“I think from a voter’s perspective this is something that voters need to know and to encourage the government to fix it.”