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Ontario mayors ‘alarmed’ by provincial cuts to municipal funding

Big-city mayors in Ontario are calling on the Ford government to hold off on cutting funding in their municipalities.

Following a meeting of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) on Friday, the group issued a statement asking the provincial government to minimize the impact the cuts will have on Ontario’s municipalities.

“Big-city mayors from across Ontario continue to be alarmed about the province’s unilateral, retroactive cuts to municipal funding after cities have already passed our budgets,” said Cam Guthrie, the mayor of Guelph and chair of LUMCO. “To absorb the funding cuts the Province has made, after municipal budgets have already been approved – let alone find a further four per cent in budget reductions as the premier has suggested – cities will be forced to consider increasing taxes or fees, cutting services, raiding reserves, or deferring infrastructure and capital projects.”

Guthrie also expressed concern about Bill 108, which he said could risk city finances and the ability to provide parkland, community facilities, and well-planned neighbourhoods.

“Changes to development charges, which are paid by developers to offset the cost of growth, could put already-approved parks and community centres in jeopardy. A return to the old OMB rules for planning appeals means that local planning matters will once again be taken out of the hands of municipal councils,” he said. “We wholeheartedly support the province’s goals of improving access to different types of housing, including more affordable housing, but believe that by working together, we can find better ways to achieve them.”

LUMCO is calling on the province to extend the deadline for comments on Bill 108 from June 1 to September 30 to allow municipalities adequate time to comment.

“Our partnership with the province is extremely important to Chatham-Kent,” said CK Mayor Darrin Canniff. “However, we believe both the provincial government and municipalities will benefit if we take the time to review Bill 108 and move together toward meeting Ontario’s fiscal responsibilities while ensuring communities don’t suffer as a result.”

The LUMCO is comprised of 28 mayors from Ontario cities that have a population of over 100,000. The group represents  67 per cent of the province’s population.

We understand the fiscal position the government of Ontario is in, and we want to be a partner in its efforts to get its budget deficit and debt under control,” said Guthrie.”Unlike the provincial government, [however], municipalities are required by law to balance their budgets annually and cannot run a deficit.