The members of the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario met again on Friday. With special guests Health Minister Christine Elliott and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, the LUMCO mayors heard about the Province’s response to the coronavirus, and then they offered a list of things that they would like to see in the upcoming provincial budget.
“We have always said that we want to be partners with the Province, solving problems together through better, more efficient government,” said Guelph Mayor, and LUMCO Chair, Cam Guthrie in a statement after the meeting. “I am encouraged that Minister Elliott and Minister Clark attended our meeting today to discuss a range of issues that are top-of-mind for the people we represent.”
Among the items mentioned by LUMCO, according to Guthrie, was more funding for mental health and addiction services, more investment in transit, more funding to combat climate change, stronger regulations to ensure that growth pays for itself, support to reduce red tap, and assistance to tackle guns and gang violence.
“LUMCO mayors have diverse needs within our individual cities, but we have come together with one voice to urge provincial investment in areas that concern us all. Collectively, we represent 69 per cent of Ontario’s population, and these are the most pressing needs we are seeing on the ground in our cities,” Guthrie added.
This LUMCO meeting was in advance of the delivery of the fiscal 2020-21 Provincial Budget, and the government is trying to avoid a repeat of last year where several retroactive cuts for cities were announced, which caused weeks of outrage from municipal politicians, including Guthrie who led the activism from his LUMCO chair.
“Big-city mayors from across Ontario are extremely concerned that the Government of Ontario is engaging in downloading by stealth – implementing funding and governance changes to municipalities without any consultation, after cities have already approved our budgets,” said Guthrie last May.
The Province finished gathering public feedback on February 11, including a tour of various Ontario towns and cities. Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance Stan Cho led a town hall in Guelph last month, and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner outlined some of the primary concerns he heard from Guelph citizens and business leaders.
“Some common themes we heard were the need to invest in all-day two-way GO; reforms to business risk management programs that support local farmers; and the need to invest in primary care and mental health and addiction services,” Schreiner said.
At the town hall, Cho didn’t give up any hints about what might be in the finished budget. “As far as the actual details of the budget are concerned, nothing’s been decided yet,” he said. “That’s why we’re out here, because every bit of input we hear from communities throughout Ontario will be considered in the budget.”
Last fall after a meeting with LUMCO, Clark said that the Province would be doing consultations about whether or not the fiscal years for Ontario and its cities should be aligned, and whether there should be a single voters list for provincial and municipal elections.
Ontario’s Budget has to be presented to the Legislature in advance of the end of the fiscal year on March 31.