Mayor of Emo concerned about mandated municipal costs to DSSAB social services

By Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Given this year’s increase in mandated shares to social services, Township of Emo Mayor Harold McQuaker said there needs to be more accountability with how municipal funds are being used and questioned the amount of money being contributed to the Rainy River District Social Services Board (DSSAB).

“I’m not against social services, if they’re not abused, and I’m not against anything to do with the DSSAB providing it’s not abused, but I think it’s a bit out of control and it needs to be trimmed. And more accountability for the municipal dollar has to be accounted for,” McQuaker said.

It is mandated by the province that municipalities pay their share to DSSAB, McQuaker said, and the amount is based on the municipality’s assessment.

Municipalities saw their share rise 4.8 per cent this year, in part due to rising costs associated with community housing.

McQuaker believes that municipalities would have lower shares if there were “tighter restrictions” on social services.

McQuaker argued that DSSAB could be doing more to help those who utilize warming center services to seek training opportunities for finding employment.

“I look around me and I see these youngsters that are just not contributing to the system, or to the tax dollar end of it at all. They get in a rut, they get social assistance, and they seem to stay there,” he said.

McQuaker said restructuring may be in order.

“It gets harder and harder every year to find the dollars to service needs. And that’s where we have to really look at unnecessary needs,” he said.

Councillor Harrold Boven agreed with McQuaker, saying that it is the council’s responsibility to look after citizens by looking into how tax dollars are being spent.

In response to McQuakers argument that the warming center in Fort Frances is overfunded and that the township should pull away from DSSAB, Councillor Lisa Teeple replied that it was a multi-tiered issue that will not be easily solved.

Teeple noted that Fort Frances warming centers are a hub for neighboring municipalities such as Emo.

“That’s where their services are, so there could be Emo residents that are homeless in Fort Frances, because that’s where the medical services are, that’s where DSSAB is, that’s where other people that they grew up with are. So using the warming center as an example may not be as effective as you think, because there could be some of our residents there.”

Teeple said that the homeless and drug crisis needs to be addressed but sees the frustration experienced by municipalities when mandated to provide more money to community services.

“When municipalities have to cough up more money, it can get frustrating for a lot of the municipalities because it’s a big chunk of money, but it’s also for services that are important to our communities,” she said.

“Where does the provincial government come in, and help these communities pay for the services that they downloaded into these communities?” she asked. “It’s like downloaded services, but we need more assistance from the provincial government.”

“We want to have the best communities we can. And unfortunately, the budgets are small. So you know, we’re doing our best,” Teeple said.

Also discussed at last Tuesday’s council meeting held on March 14:

  • lawmakers resolved to arrange an open house in partnership with Rainy River Future Development before the main long weekend to help the township of Emo facilitate their community strategic plan.
  • approved Tyrell Griffith, A.C.E.L. Fire Chief, to attend the Northwest Response Forum on April 4-6, 2023, in Dryden. All related expenses to be covered by the township of Emo or are to be split by other municipalities, and the joint fire chief committee agreement also approves Griffith to attend the Northwest Response Forum.
  • approved Shane McDonald the Emo-LaVallee Community Centre Board as the Emo community representative
  • approved the purchase of infield material located at the Emo sportsfield, which will be in addition to the 2023 capital budget and funded through the annual sportsfield one fund reserve.
  • supported the request that the Emo will cover any potential shortages between sponsorships received and event expenses for the Spring Fever Games. The recreation committee will be holding an event in conjunction with Spring Fever Days on April 15, 2023, setting a total budget of $1500 to the event, and will be requesting sponsorship from community businesses to cover the expenses.

Emo council’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 11, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. at the municipal office.