Bruce County to take responsibility for Municipal Innovation Council

·4 min read

BRUCE COUNTY – The Municipal Innovation Council (MIC) was formed in 2020, and has undertaken studies and projects that have resulted in cost savings, information sharing and technical advances that benefit all municipal members.

Saugeen Shores has chaired the MIC and acted as the lead municipality over the past three years.

The Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) has served notice that it will no longer provide a staff person to act as program director.

A letter signed by the CAOs of the eight MIC member municipalities, one of which is the county, was discussed during the March 20 meeting of Bruce County’s executive committee. The letter requested that the county become the MIC lead and continue to support the program.

The letter states, in part, “While the MIC members appreciate the commitment and resources from Saugeen Shores as the lead municipality, the County of Bruce may offer a model that will serve the partnership goals at a different scale, as well as have the internal capacity to support shared initiatives.”

The MIC members meet again this week and have asked the county to provide a program delivery proposal for their consideration. The letter concluded by stating, “It is our hope that Saugeen Shores council will continue to see the benefit of the MIC with an alternate lead and that all municipal partners throughout the county will continue to work together with a focus on success in 2023 under this new administrative model.”

County Coun. Kenneth Craig, Kincardine, asked what the expectation was moving forward.

CAO Derrick Thomson spoke of the alternative program discussed in the letter, saying, “We have been working on that.”

Thomson said the MIC and NII have been linked in the delivery of the program over a number of years now. There was a change by the NII in their ability to provide program leadership, which led the MIC to “rethink how they delivered the program and look at a different governance structure.”

He went on to say the county’s proposal will be made to the MIC; the members will have the opportunity to comment on it, and then it will come back to municipal members and the county.

The new model “recognizes that there’s a piece of efficiency work that may not have been captured in the original model.”

Thomson added, that in his opinion, “We need to work collaboratively with our municipalities… and need to find efficiencies in the way we provide services to the public… and we need to innovate.”

The proposal will primarily be a matter of “relaunching what MIC looks like and just add pieces that will support it and really drive innovation through the county,” Thomson said.

In response to a question from County Coun. Milt McIver, Thomson spoke of an MIC that is “project-based.” The key point is filling the gap left by the NII.

Warden Chris Peabody, Brockton, said that as with anything else, his prime concern is the cost to the county. He commented that there weren’t “a lot of concrete things from the MIC,” which might be a reason for the present situation.

He also asked about the Smart Beach project, and was told that present programs are continuing, including the Smart Beach and FoodCycler programs.

Thomson noted both the county and MIC have heard comments about tangibles, and said the programs would be more integrated than in the past, with a focus on efficiency.

County Coun. Steve Hammell, Arran-Elderslie, asked about funding – whether it’s provincial, Bruce County, lower tier or all three – saying funding is going to play a key role in what municipalities decide moving forward.

Thomson said the present funding model would continue, but in the future, he would be proposing a different funding model, and would also be looking for partnerships with the federal and provincial governments, as well as other partners. He also proposed an inclusive model for the MIC rather than the present model which doesn’t involve all municipalities in the county.

Thomson spoke of project-specific funding in the future, and added that his hope is for securing alternative funding.

“We need to adjust,” he said.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times