Rising Liability Costs a Huge Concern for Municipalities: Warden McNamara

The warden is Essex County is pleased to hear the province is taking a serious look at the liability costs facing municipalities.

In a speech to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association on Monday, Premier Doug Ford said the province will hold consultations to look at ways to reduce costs when municipalities are sued.

It's called the "joint and several liability' rule and it means one party, which is only partially responsible, would still be liable for full damages if other responsible parties can't pay.

In some municipalities, it has resulted in banning activities like street hockey and tobogganing.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara, who was also the past President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, hopes some good will come from the consultations and will address municipality's concerns.

"When we look at municipalities, we don't have deep pockets and I think the upsetting piece, it is not legislation that is driving the cost up, it is the judges and trial lawyers who are setting policy," says McNamara.

He says some municipalites are forced to make tough decisions to avoid being liable such as banning tobogganing or playing street hockey.

"It is over $300-million to insure our communities," says McNamara. "To give you a little bit of perspective on that, we spend $150-million provincially to repair bridges."

McNamara says it is about creating fair, equitable and balanced decisions for the victims and municipalities.