2022 City Election



- by Jon Farmer

As a first time candidate for Owen Sound City Council, I’ve been knocking on doors to introduce myself and ask folks about their concerns and hopes for our city. In that process, I’ve learned that when people say “Owen Sound” they don’t always mean the same thing. Curiously, Owen Sound is a homonym.


When some people say Owen Sound they mean the entire community including everyone and everything here. When other folks say Owen Sound they’re referring to the Corporation of the City of Owen Sound: our municipal government. Knowing the differences between Owen Sound the community and Owen Sound the Corporation is essential if we’re going to have fruitful conversations about our future.

The challenges facing the community of Owen Sound are complex. They include economic, housing, environmental, and social issues. These challenges are not unique to us - communities across Canada are facing them - but only we can work to address them here. To successfully do that will require the participation of individuals, community groups, organizations, and all levels of government.

The differences between the community and corporation are not self-evident. To understand them you need to know about the structure of municipal government in Ontario.

The Corporation of the City of Owen Sound has a specific set of responsibilities, powers, and resources at its disposal. Those are laid out in the Municipal Act and determined by our local resources and fiscal reality.

cityhall regFrom the Municipal Act

10 (1) A single-tier municipality may provide any service or thing that the municipality considers necessary or desirable for the public.  2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 8.


(2) A single-tier municipality may pass by-laws respecting the following matters:

1.  Governance structure of the municipality and its local boards.

2.  Accountability and transparency of the municipality and its operations and of its local boards and their operations.

3.  Financial management of the municipality and its local boards.

4.  Public assets of the municipality acquired for the purpose of exercising its authority under this or any other Act.

5.  Economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality, including respecting climate change.

6.  Health, safety and well-being of persons.

7.  Services and things that the municipality is authorized to provide under subsection (1).

8.  Protection of persons and property, including consumer protection.

9.  Animals.

10.  Structures, including fences and signs.

11.  Business licensing.  2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 8; 2017, c. 10, Sched. 1, s. 1.

Other levels of government are responsible for different things. As the Association of Municipalities of Ontario explains, the Province is responsible for:

  • Administration of Justice

  • Education

  • Hospitals

  • Natural Resources and Environment

  • Property and Civil Rights in Ontario

  • Social Services

Beyond these areas of jurisdiction, it is individuals, businesses, and organizations that make things happen in Owen Sound. These other residents and community signowensoundmembers create events and sports leagues, run camps, put on festivals, feed the hungry, mobilize responses to crises, and start and run businesses.

So why do people raise community issues when asked about issues for the municipal election?

The answer is that people expect the Corporation to work to address community issues regardless of whether they are under City Hall’s specific jurisdiction. It can be hard to figure out who is responsible for what because all of these things happen in Owen Sound the region and affect Owen Sound the community. 

In reality, Owen Sound the Corporation does not directly control health care and social services. It cannot require businesses to relocate here. It does not control schools or the structure of services provided by other groups.

But Owen Sound the Corporation can be an advocate for and partner to the folks working to support our community at large. If we as residents think of City Hall like a giant vending machine that spits out services after we deposit taxes then we won’t be able to imagine a City Hall that is actively collaborating with other community partners to find creative solutions to community challenges. How we think about City Hall and municipal government shapes our expectation and our sense of what is possible.

Ideally, we would have a culture of civic participation with opportunities to learn about civic and government structures starting in elementary school as well as venues for deep conversations as adults in community. Without that, we’re left to cram information during election cycles. Which means that now is the time to dive into the conversation, learn more about the divisions of government power, the community groups working to improve our area, and the individuals who are running for a seat at the municipal table. We also need to make sure that the candidates we elect know these differences. Elected officials who know that everyone has a role to play in addressing community issues will be more likely to engage the community as a whole in decision making.

This is another example of knowledge being power. More clearly knowing the difference between Owen Sound the Corporation and Owen Sound the community will help us to ask the right questions of the folks running for office. It will also empower the community to engage more actively in the years following the election rather than feeling like the City vending machine took their money or that they need to kick it to get their change back.

Jon Farmer lives in Owen Sound and is a candidate for City Council in the 2022 election.




CopyRight ©2015, ©2016, ©2017 of Hub Content
is held by content creators