The annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) kicked off Monday in an unusual way: remotely. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives from many of Ontario’s 444 municipalities will not be descending on Ottawa this week, but will instead be meeting via teleconference, and the effects of the pandemic will definitely be a big part of the conversations.
“My friends, we face a tough road ahead. But I feel very optimistic,” Premier Doug Ford told AMO representatives from a studio stage in Toronto.
The Premier explained that his speech was meant to be a message of hope, because he knows people across the province are struggling, and those people need to know that there’s collaboration between all the Provincial and local governments in order to see them through, and get Ontario back on a successful track post-pandemic.
“The relationship with our municipal partners is more important than ever. And now more than ever, the people of Ontario expect us to work together,” Ford added.
Ford touted the $4 billion in funding that was secured for the Safe Restart Agreement, the emergency operating funds for Ontario municipalities announced by the Federal government; the first portion of the Safe Restart funding was announced last week. Ford thanked Ontario’s municipal leaders for helping him keep up the pressure to get the funds. “You stood behind us during these negotiations. We negotiated as Team Ontario with one voice,” Ford said.
Ford’s speech, and AMO itself this year, is a change in tone from last year’s contentious meeting which came after months of friction between the Province and Ontario cities over changes to funding in the 2019-20 Provincial budget.
You can watch the full speech via the Premier’s YouTube channel:
Minutes before the Premier’s speech this morning, the City of Guelph released a media statement about it’s goals for this year’s AMO.
“The City of Guelph looks forward to meeting with our provincial partners during this week’s AMO conference to discuss a comprehensive and collaborative response to the COVID-19 pandemic so we can effectively support our residents, who continue to face unprecedented challenges related to this public health crisis,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie.
“Municipalities are on the front lines of this pandemic, providing critical services to the citizens and businesses who need it most, and we will continue to play a leading role in Ontario’s recovery,” Guthrie added. “We are grateful for the Province’s leadership on this issue so far, and believe there’s still work to be done to build stronger, more resilient communities for the post-COVID world.”
Among the goals for the City’s representatives is stabilizing transit revenues, stimulus for infrastructure projects, funding for supportive housing, and the work to initiate two-way all-day GO including a discussion about that traction power station issue. Meetings have been scheduled with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark; Minister of Finance, Rod Phillips; Minister of Infrastructure, Laurie Scott; Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney; and Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Jeff Yurek.
“Investing in job-creation and sustainable municipal infrastructure projects, and support programs for our most vulnerable citizens, will help stimulate local economic recovery in Guelph and throughout Ontario,” said Chief Administrative Officer Scott Stewart. “We are committed to working hand-in-hand with the Province and the Federal government to secure funding for shovel-worthy projects in Guelph that will benefit the City’s residents and make us future ready.”