In 1996, the municipalities of the Kenora District were being influenced by the Conservative government to amalgamate in an effort to reduce costs and eliminate the number of municipalities in Ontario.
The municipal leaders of the day were looking at ways to tax the unincorporated areas as they considered the residents, both seasonal and permanent as leeches on their communities. They felt the unincorporated areas only used the municipal infrastructure but contributed nothing to their costs of operation.
The Kenora District Municipal Association (KDMA) at its 1996 annual general meeting in Sioux Lookout formed a committee to look at forming a “modified upper tier” body to enable them to get money from the unincorporated areas.
The unincorporated areas were aware of the plan by the municipalities to form this “modified upper tier” body but were not invited to participate. This was essentially a plan to tax without representation by the municipal leaders.
Unincorporated ratepayers from all areas of the Kenora District gathered at the Oxdrift Fire Hall and formed the District of Kenora Unincorporated Ratepayers Association (DoKURA) and faxed all the municipal leaders and provincial ministers and told them if this “modified upper tier” was going to be formed we had to be included in the process, in fact, we told the municipal leaders that we would be attending the next meeting of the KDMA where the decision would be made based on the committee’s report and recommendation.
The municipalities responded that we would be able to attend if only a few representatives attended, as they didn’t want an unruly crowd. We agreed to this in order to show that we can work together.
Over the next few months we worked together to form and develop a proposal for a “modified upper tier” body and this was to be enabled by legislation under the auspices of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and would be called an Area Services Board.
The Province of Ontario, however mandated the District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSABs) under the auspices of the Ministry of Community and Social Services legislation and the Area Services Board legislation was delayed in being introduced to the legislature.
The municipalities didn’t want the DSSABs, the unincorporated ratepayers didn’t want the DSSABs, but we were stuck with them until we could prove to the province that we could provide the mandated services.
Our Association conducted a vote across the Kenora District Area and elected the first representatives to the newly formed Kenora District Services Board. We have four representatives on this board, one for each of the four electoral areas that our Association defined. For the two subsequent elections, our Association was contracted by the Kenora District Services Board to run the election for the unincorporated areas.
Since the formation of the Kenora District Services Board, we have worked closely and well with the municipalities to represent the interest of our constituents and members.
Our association spearheaded the movement to have the Federal-Provincial Gas Tax Rebate Program extended to include the unincorporated territories and our work and constant contact with the other Local Road Boards and Local Service Boards across the Province resulted in an allocation of $5.8 million for the unincorporated taxpayers.
We were also instrumental in the formation of the Thunder Bay District Unincorporated Area Ratepayers Association by providing the guidance and experience of our formation.
Three years ago we incorporated our Association under the name of The District of Kenora Unincorporated Areas Ratepayers Association and became the only incorporated association in the Province that represents the unincorporated taxpayers on a district basis.
We continue to work in the best interests of our constituents and members.