NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath shared her vision for stronger communities in remarks Monday at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Ottawa.
“No matter what part of Ontario we live in, we all want similar things,” said Horwath. “We all want a future where municipalities continue to be the heart of life at home — with provincial funding for municipalities that’s stable, predictable and certain — so the things our families count on will always be there.”
Horwath said it will take true provincial-municipal partnership to build this prosperous future — one where jobs pay well, life is more affordable, public health care is world class, and roads and schools are safe and well-maintained. For the provincial government, that means respecting local decision-makers and committing to reliable funding for municipal partners. In particular, Horwath called for investments in infrastructure including roads, schools and rural broadband, as well as regular increases to the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund.
“Many municipal governments hoped for a new, more positive relationship with the provincial government after years of being let down by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals. Sadly, Doug Ford is taking things from bad to worse with callous cuts, piling on costs, and municipal meddling,” said Horwath.
On Monday morning, Ford announced to AMO delegates that he will plow ahead with devastating cuts to municipalities, including cuts to public health, and child care — cuts Horwath said amount to Ford creating problems, and throwing them at the feet of municipal councils.
“The countdown to devastating cuts is on,” said Horwath. “Slashing public health and child care is slashing things that keep our families safe and healthy. The human cost of failing people when it comes to public health, ambulance services and child care is unthinkable, and so is the Ford Tax municipalities are now being forced to contemplate to fill the holes Mr. Ford is digging in your budgets.”
Last summer, Ford pulled municipal and regional seats out from under voters mid-election, wiping wards off the map in Toronto. Ford was so intent on getting his way, he reached for the notwithstanding clause amid the pushback. With Ford now conducting a review of regional governance, Horwath has introduced legislation that, if passed, would help prevent the province from imposing changes like amalgamation on municipalities without their consent.
In addition to the public health and child care cuts, Ford’s budget also cancelled a planned increase to the gas tax transfer, cut the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund and slashed the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s budget by 25 per cent.
“Ontario’s municipalities deserve so much better from their provincial partner,” said Horwath. “The premier should respect the will of local governments, not try to override their wishes. And the province should be investing in communities, not cutting funding for critical services.”
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