Ontario’s mayors from big cities are worried about the province’s municipal funding cuts and the proposed Bill 108, which would change how municipalities can impose development charges.
Cam Guthrie, chair of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario, released a statement Friday that detailed a number of concerns, including the fact that the province’s municipal funding cuts were announced after cities already passed their budgets.
“Cities will be forced to consider increasing taxes or fees, cutting services, raiding reserves, or deferring infrastructure and capital projects,” Guthrie, who is also the mayor of Guelph, said in the statement.
“Unlike the provincial government, municipalities are required by law to balance their budgets annually and cannot run a deficit.”
On April 11, the province of Ontario released its 2019 budget, which proposed a number of funding cuts to various sectors, including health, education and emergency services.
The current $163.4 billion budget pegs the deficit at $11.7 billion and is about $5 billion higher than the last Liberal budget.
On behalf of the mayors’ caucus, Guthrie called on the province to push back when the funding cuts go into effect.
“We again call on the Government of Ontario to defer the implementation of these funding cuts so that the province and cities can work together on how to minimize the impact on the people we all represent, and the services they depend on,” the statement read.
Guthrie also stated concern, on behalf of the caucus, about the Ford government’s proposed Bill 108, which he said could put cities’ finances at risk and affect their ability to provide parkland, community facilities and adequate public engagement to inform neighbourhood planning.
“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,” the statement read.
“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.”
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The proposed bill was also criticized by Toronto city staff recently.
“Bill 108 contains limited evidence that its central objectives, making it easier to bring housing to market and accelerating local planning decisions, will be achieved,” a recent report from Toronto city planning staff read.
On behalf of the caucus, Guthrie called on the province to engage with Ontario’s cities on Bill 108. He also called on the province to extend the deadline for comments on the bill from June 1 to Sept. 30.
The statement was released following a Friday meeting with the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario.
The Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario is comprised of 28 mayors from cities in the province that have a population of over 100,000.
“LUMCO mayors are asking the Government of Ontario to sit down with cities to work together on the issues that concern us all,” the statement finished.
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— With files from Andrew Russell, Matthew Bingley and The Canadian Press