The Smartest Guy in the Room: Fuwing Wong

Idea Plan Action Success
Written by Skid Crease

Understanding Town of Caledon Management

The idea for this series came about as the result of a simple question by one of Skid Crease’s Bolton neighbours.
“I mean, what do these people on the Town staff really do?” he had inquired. So Skid decided to ask them. Here is the second in this series of interviews with the people who really run the Town of Caledon.

Fuwing Wong, Chief Financial Officer at Town of Caledon

The next person to be interviewed for our series is Fuwing Wong, Caledon’s CFO. Mr. Wong came to the Town of Caledon in 2009 as the Deputy Treasurer, and moved into the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position in 2014.

When I first sat at the media desk, I observed a Town staff member who kept his calm under fire and was able to answer every question with humble confidence and accuracy. I dubbed him “the smartest guy in the room” and later discovered it was Mr. Wong. Now, he would be the first to humbly reject that label, and this is why.

Mr. Wong places the credit for his preparedness on the accuracy and transparency of the reports that the Town team prepares with him. When the finance staff sits down at a Council meeting they have a comprehensive report and have communicated that report to Council. As well, if questions arise that need clarification, they have the background to find that information quickly.

As the General Manager of finance and infrastructure services for the Town, Mr. Wong leads teams in both the finance and public works departments. He has to consider both Corporate-wide financial impacts was well as implications for Town-owned infrastructure on recommendations the team makes.

For example, our CFO was at the table during recent discussions in the Region about the impacts of a transfer of Regional Roads to local municipalities.  Also, when the province recently enacted Development Charges Act amendments under Bill 73, our CFO participated in the discussions to explain that as a rural municipality we had no previous history of transit and couldn’t be treated like areas that already had developed transit systems.

Mr. Wong’s ability to bring collaboration rather than confrontation to the table can also be seen in the beneficial agreement negotiated between the Mayfield West 2 landowners group and the Town.  The agreement will help the Town financially support the projected growth in the area.

If there are any accomplishments for which Mr. Wong has obvious pride, it would be in the Town’s “Tax Funded Capital” program. He credits the 2010 Council for supporting this initiative which has seen a $3.4 million budget grow into a $14.8 million annual investment in our future. Few people realize that the developers do not pay for all the infrastructure costs to support growth in the  Town. This program pays for the Town’s share of growth-related infrastructure as well as providing money to repair and renew the Town’s aging infrastructure.

It would also be in the quality of financial reports that have given the Town recognition from the Government Finance Officers Association of North America by giving the Town of Caledon awards for all three of its financial communications documents: the Budget document, the Financial Statements report, and the Popular Annual Financial Report – all available online, perfectly transparent to the citizens of Caledon.

It is this pride in working with a team to improve the Town’s financial transparency and accountability that mark Mr. Wong’s work to this date. In the future, one of the challenges will be continuing to improve how we deal with and pay for growth. Having the right people, systems, and processes in place to accommodate and service the development applications and resulting population growth is important. Important also is determining how we pay for the costs associated with growth. Currently, Caledon developers pay for approximately 60% of the growth-related infrastructure costs, but the other 40% are paid for by the taxpayers.

Another challenge is the level of service, and how to pay for it, that we require for our increasing aging population. Mr. Wong and the Town have examined incentives for developers, in the form of development charge discounts, for Senior’s Housing developments.

Some have termed this coming wave of elders as “the silver tsunami” … I have faith that with the guidance of our CFO and his team, we won’t be swept away.

I asked Mr. Wong if he had any disappointments so far in his role with the town. He could find none, but only commented on a quiet goal to work with his team for the good of the Town.

Our finances are in good hands.

Editor’s Note:
The first story in this series The Buck Stops Here: Mike Galloway, CAO, Town of Caledon can be found here

About the author

Skid Crease

Skid is an internationally respected, award winning educator, author, keynote speaker & storyteller. An environmental & outdoor education specialist. Accredited member Canadian Association of Journalists. “Always leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.”