Severance Payments & Budget Reduction


Midland and surrounding area (North Simcoe) was bursting at the seams with quality events this summer. Tourism is one of our top economic drivers and we can only hope that when guests get a taste of our magic, they decide to relocate their family, find gainful employment and “live, work and play in the Heart of Georgian Bay”.

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who made our visitors experience a little more special.

In the news:

After carefully reviewing the front page of the August 25th Mirror, one can conclude certain displaced politicians and staff are having a hard time with Council’s direction to reduce the operating budget by $1.5M by 2018.

Certain people are at it again creating confusion and drama around the information they garnered through the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) regarding severance payments attributed to 2014/2015 staff departures.

We won’t repeat the severance payout figure because, first, we haven’t confirmed the number, second it has no context absent the facts and third, it’s part of doing business at this level and in the Province of Ontario.

In Canada, our laws require that employees be treated fairly when they are let go, unless they are guilty of gross misconduct, such as theft. When an employer or organization needs to make a change in direction, severance payments must be made to those who are asked to leave. That is the law.

As a result, decisions needed to be made; either continue to employ individuals who were not aligned with changes that need to occur and continue paying their salaries for many years to come – or take positive and fair steps to position Midland for the future. While it is never a happy thing to part with employees and pay severance, Council made a decision that maintaining status quo was not a realistic option. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing, but expecting a different result!

While sometimes unsettling, we are encouraged that Council is prepared to make bold, and in some cases, unpopular decisions.

We see it frequently in competitive sports that the General Manager and/or Coach is replaced when the team is consistently last, because the fans / customers demand results. After all, it is the customer who pays the team’s generous salaries.

Sticking with our sport analogy, it appears that in the Town of Midland there were both player and General manager changes as Council didn’t get the desired results.

Another real world example- Boards of Directors are sometimes replaced when the shareholders lose confidence in the direction of the company and fail to see a return on their investment.

We witness time and time again, members of Council being voted out after a 4-year term when they fail to deliver on their election promises.

Leadership changes do happen and are necessary from time to time. The cost of changing leaders must be weighed against the cost to the organization of preserving the status quo.

Some closing thoughts:

  • Council please stay the course and do what you promised to do and what you believe is the right thing to do.
  • Treat people fairly along the way; the laws in Canada will assure you do.
  • Always seek out the best possible talent, not available talent when filling key leadership positions.
  • Don’t listen to the complacent few who historically have failed to deliver a vision, a plan and importantly hope for our youth.
  • Embrace accountability in everyone and hold yourself to the highest standard of performance.
  • Never be satisfied.

Finally, it has been said in both business and in one’s own personal life, ‘you need to manage noise, or it will manage you!’

Back to the business of the town:

The budget process has begun, and we welcome our new CAO next week knowing Midland still has much work to do in ‘helping our future arrive ahead of schedule.’

We’d be remiss if we didn’t review Council activities related to spending/policy decisions during the month of August; please enjoy a quick review of the August 22nd meeting of Council.

Council activity:

Council received deputations from several valued community groups asking for new and/or more financial support during this next budget cycle and beyond. Until we ‘free up’ some new monies to allocate against economic drivers to include quality of life programs, these ‘decisions’ remain a significant challenge for this or any other Council.

Close to 90% of Midland’s annual operating budget is attributed to salaries and benefits paid to town staff, leaving very little capital remaining for maintaining/enhancing existing programs and for responding to new needs.

This is why the $1.5M target set by Council is the right thing to do.

While we are experiencing some increased economic activity, which is welcome news, growth still remains tenuous and we need sustainable development to grow the revenue base.

Sound familiar? Council may be off to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) again with another planning matter. The 735 Portage Park Lane planning matter received lots of airtime at this Council meeting and put in question the authority of the Committee of Adjustment (COA). In the final analyses, staff was directed to attempt to negotiate a satisfactory resolution to the planning matter.

Council grappled with a decision to issue a payment for $1541.14 to a resident under the 2015 Heritage Property Tax relief program. This sounds very noble until one learns there were no funds set aside for such a program. Thankfully, there is an account called ‘reserves’ which once again, saved the day.

Midland Bay Landing is moving along, maybe towards termination of the ‘deal’. We can expect a report in September from staff on the developer’s level of progress and commitment.

As always, check out the town of Midland’s website if you’re thirsty for more on any of the above.

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