This week is the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference, which typically takes place live and in-person in Ottawa, but for the second year in a row the whole thing is being held virtually. As usual, the Premier of Ontario kicked things off with a speech, and Doug Ford began AMO 2021 on a positive note touting Ontario’s success overcoming COVID-19 thanks to strong provincial/municipal relations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has tested us like never before. The impacts of this virus were felt in every part of our lives, but particularly locally, at the municipal level,” Ford said. “When I look at where we are now, and how far we’ve come together, nothing fills me with more pride than seeing how this province responded. When called upon, we saw the best of the Ontario spirit; undaunted, unwavering, and unbreakable.”
Ford touted a number of measures they’ve rolled out during the pandemic including more spending on health and long-term care, and improved ventilation in schools. He also discussed how his government has introduced more funding for rural broadband, and more funding for transit projects, both locally and between localities.
“These communities represent over 92 per cent of Ontario’s total population and this stable source of funding enables municipalities to have the flexibility to improve and expand your public transit services as you see fit because you know better than anyone what your communities need,” Ford added.
At the same time AMO was playing Ford’s pre-recorded speech, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clack announced that the Government of Ontario is making $307 million more available to assist municipalities and Indigenous communities fund homeless shelters, affordable housing, and other emergency housing needs.
“Municipalities have been on the frontlines of Ontario’s pandemic response and vaccine rollout, while continuing to protect our most vulnerable populations, including homeless populations,” Clark said in a statement. “Our government is committed to ensuring municipalities have the resources they need to keep their communities safe, and today’s funding will help our local partners deliver critical services, support vulnerable people, and unlock affordable housing in their communities.”
Before Ford’s speech on Monday morning, the City of Guelph put out a media release outlining their priorities for this AMO Conference, which Mayor Cam Guthrie calls, ” the Super Bowl for municipalities.”
“It’s a time when the local level of government is front and centre. I’m glad that Guelph has a strong presence at the conference again this year,” Guthrie said in a statement. “As we begin our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we put Guelph’s issues and opportunities on the radar of decision-makers at Queen’s Park.”
Guthrie – and a team made up of fellow city council members Ward 6 Councillor Dominique O’Rourke and Ward 5 Councillor Cathy Downer, as well as members of the executive team and the Intergovernmental Services staff – plan on tackling a number of major issues for Guelph. Among them are Greenbelt expansion, the expropriation of the Dolime lands, funding for the non-profit sector, the expansion of regional transit, and emergency funding to cover Guelph Transit’s projected $1.3 million deficit for 2021.
“These meetings are a prime opportunity to advocate for Council priorities including transit, environmental sustainability, and smart growth,” added O’Rourke in a statement. “The conference also has a full slate of workshops and discussions on municipal topics, and offers great opportunities to connect with other municipalities.”