Modeling a Regional Approach to Tackle Key Challenges

CAO’s Highlight actions and potential next steps towards regional initiatives

The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay > 2024 Events > Modeling a Regional Approach to Tackle Key Challenges Recap

Modeling a Regional Approach to Tackle Key Challenges

Wednesday, May 29, 4:30-6 PM

One of the Institute’s four priority areas is Social Finance & Housing.

Many municipalities are currently updating Official Plans, Strategic Plans, Sustainability Plans, and Community Improvement Plans. This community conversation focuses on the fact that our most pressing challenges are too big for any one municipality to solve on their own. Affordable housing shortages to infrastructure strains, rapidly growing population to the escalating impact of extreme weather events call for new ways to solve problems, work on initiatives together, and do things we’ve never done before. So, how might we best align our objectives, pool our resources, and collaborate on a number of key pilot projects?

Our May 29 virtual event provided a platform for a public discussion featuring regional CAOs highlights on their current actions addressing key challenges faced by municipalities. We wanted to hear their thoughts on conditions for success to nurture alignment on objectives, pool resources, and tackle these issues regionally. What are the challenges and what are the benefits of their approaches?

Please review The Welcome Presentation from this event.

Andrew McNeill – CAO of Wasaga Beach

With a 20% growth rate and as the largest community in Canada currently without a highschool, the team at Wasaga Beach has their hands full. Andrew explained that the team is focused on bringing family fun back to Wasaga Beach, which requires investments in family infrastructure as well as addressing housing prices. Wasaga Beach recently welcomed a casino which brought 240 jobs, but workers are having a difficult time living in the community. Given that 25% of the town’s land is owned by the province, there are many opportunities to engage the province in housing projects on serviced land. View Andrew’s presentation. 


John Ferguson – CAO of Clearview

Like many municipalities, Clearview is wrestling with high water and sewer costs. The municipality is seeking to develop intermunicipal partnerships to share and reduce costs and to take on bigger projects to help sustain the municipality and accommodate the demand for growth. View John’s presentation. 


Sonya Skinner – CAO Town of Collingwood

Housing affordability is an income and policy problem which cannot be solved by simply lowering land taxes and reducing services. Sonya explained that municipalities are often challenged by finishing and aligning their budgets on a timeline that enable projects and investment. Additionally, community stakeholders often have different visions and focuses, as well as a need for improving municipal literacy makes it difficult to effectively deal with big problems as a community. Rising above these challenges, Collingwood’s work towards a Master Plan and reducing municipal costs by selling assets like the Terminal Points to private buyers, is laying the groundwork they need to meet the demand for gentle density in stride. View Sonya’s presentation. 

Town of Collingwood

Shawn Everitt – CAO of the Blue Mountains

Shawn noted that he and his team have been using a Southern Georgian Bay map on a regular basis for many years, and in his opinion, the province is accepting the idea of engaging with our municipalities as a region. Building on John’s suggestions, Shawn argued the case for thinking in terms of regional collaboration in every-day municipal operations. As the idea of a Regional Housing Strategy grows, stakeholders must clearly categorize which demands are Musts (legislatively mandatory), Shoulds (best practices), and Coulds (nice to haves) as well as which items fall under the responsibility of other levels of government. View Shawn’s presentation.

SGB Region Map

Karen Govan – CAO of Grey Highlands

Karen argued that Southern Georgian Bay is another Golden Horseshoe. The renewal of lower-tier municipal infrastructure is extremely difficult to implement ever since the Province shifted this responsibility down to them. The every-day maintenance of operations, growth, governance, and communications are expensive, and municipalities are often fighting against obsolescence as work to keep up. Further, higher-level legislation is not keeping up with the rate of change. View Karen’s presentation. 


CAO and Mayor Meetings

The CAO’s discussed how the occasional meetings of the region’s CAOs and mayors function. This group is only able to discuss issues, learn together, and learn from each other. They do not have the authority to act. Some of the topics covered in these meetings have been: the MTO, green development standards, regional branding.

All of the CAOs agreed that there are many problems with the provincial legislation that governs their work. The key example is that housing is a provincial responsibility, yet municipalities are still required to spend large amounts of time and money to develop and implement housing plans in order to be eligible for funding from the province, all while trying to respond to growth demands in real time. Regardless, the toolbox must be innovated to ensure that our communities can have rental housing that workers can afford; otherwise our communities will fail.

Thank you to our region’s CAOs who are working hard to help our communities thrive! We are excited to keep working with them to ensure success!


To hear and learn more, check out the video to watch to the entire learning event and visit the Institutes’ Affordable Housing Toolkit.

STAY TUNED and CONNECTED as the Institute have big plans for the Deeper Dive follow-up fall event to develop a regional plan for affordable housing, so sign up for our newsletter and if you have not signed up do so here.

A very big thank you to our speakers!

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