The District of Muskoka is willing to play ball with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) but they aren’t happy about it.
The district recently signed, under protest, a new data-sharing agreement with MPAC. A staff report states that new amendments to the agreement are aimed at adding clarity to provisions surrounding provisions and changes to services levels and dependencies, municipality-permitted uses of MPAC Data products and records and audits.
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is a key municipal data-sharing partner. According to Commissioner of Finance and Corporate Services Suzanne Olimer municipalities in Muskoka rely on the data provided by MPAC and not signing the agreement would potentially deprive this data.
“The district, as well as our partners in area municipalities, rely heavily on the information that’s available to us through MPAC. And so the alternative of not signing the data sharing services agreement is that we would lose a number of those services,” Olimer said.
The agreement is a new Data Sharing and Services Agreement (DSSA) and MPAC has requested that all Ontario municipalities sign the new agreement. According to a staff report the permissions and protections in the DSSA are weighted to the benefit of MPAC and have not considered the municipalities who are supplying the data. As a result of these concerns and the lack of ability to amend the agreement, the district decided to sign the agreement under protest.
The original wording in the document was that the district was signing the relationship under duress. This wording was an issue for councillor Peter Kelley. He stated that he could not support that wording because in his view it called into question whether the agreement was still binding.
“Frankly under duress calls into question whether you have a binding and enforceable contract or not,” Kelley said.
According to District Solicitor Jamie Clow, adding a provision stating the agreement is signed under protest or under duress is a symbolic rather than legal expression.
“The under-duress portion is a symbolic gesture, not particularly binding in any way. Because it’s going to be the document itself that will govern the relationship,” Clow said.
After further debate, the document was amended to state that it was signed under protest rather than under duress.
The district paid MPAC $2.3 million for services in 2023. This number is forecasted to increase to $2.4 million in 2024. Currently the district handles the billing for municipalities within Muskoka. The total price paid to MPAC is based on a combination of assessments and household properties. The current language and action by the district is supported by the lower municipalities in Muskoka according to Olimer.
A final amendment was added to circulate a copy of the motion to the Provincial Minister of Finance to indicate the district’s dissatisfaction with the agreement. Councillor Peter Johnston also recommended a detailed report be prepared on the issue to justify the district’s concerns over the agreement.
“We have lots of things that we are upset about, but we need to put that in a detailed report,” Johnston said.
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