January 2021
AMCTO Participates in 2021 ROMA Conference

2021-01-27 12:46:14 PM


Another year, another ROMA conference, this time virtually. AMCTO staff were in attendance at the virtual conference with the theme Connecting Rural Ontario.
 
Below are a few highlights that may be of interest to our members. We even got a shout out from Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services (see below).
 
Spoiler Alert: this is a longer post than usual.
 
Government Speeches
 
Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party
 
The big news was the announcement of $200 million again this year in Ontario Community Investment Fund (OCIF) which provides 424 rural and northern communities with critical infrastructure like roads and bridges, water and waste water. The Premier also:

  • Acknowledged how municipalities and the Province have risen to the occasion by working together through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Recapped the Safe Restart Agreement - a $19 billion total investment between Provinces/Territories and Federal Government with $7 billion for Ontario and $4 billion for municipalities to support critical municipal services.  
  • Highlighted the recent $695 million provided to put municipalities “on stable footing,” - covered some of the infrastructure investments from the 2020 Budget including investments in broadband projects across Ontario which he called “absolutely critical,” and provided an update on Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.
Read the full speech here

Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
 
On Tuesday, January 26th, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, addressed the ROMA delegates.
 
The minister thanked municipal leaders for keeping people safe and healthy. He also highlighted the collaboration and cooperation between the Province and municipalities. He highlighted investments made over the last year or so in affordable housing, the impact of the Safe Restart Agreement.
 
Minister Clark announced a new intake for projects under the Municipal Modernization Program with $40 million made available for small and rural municipalities to improve local service delivery, find efficiencies and implement innovative solutions.
 
The minister prefaced this announcement by pointing to the fact that households, the Province and municipalities have had to make tough financial choices, but that it is a fiscal reality everyone must face and adapt to.
 
Minister Clark also highlighted the commitment to maintain the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) in 2021 with $5 million in targeted funds for northern and rural municipalities, sought to clarify how Minister’s Zoning Orders have been used in the last few months, and reaffirmed his commitment to protect the Greenbelt.
 
Read Minister Clark’s full speech here
 
Other keynotes delivered included updates from Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health; Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Hon. Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development.
 
Opposition Party Speeches
 
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition, NDP Party Leader
  • Mentioned the need to build relationships with Indigenous communities.
  • Thanked municipalities for their work, even when rural Ontario local government take the blame for things that happen at all levels of government.
  • Emphasized that recovery can’t be done with cuts in the future and the need to have investments in local governments now more than ever. 
  • Broadband more important than ever to keep communities going.
Michael Blais, MPP Liberal Party
  • Municipalities do the heavy lifting on COVID-19 because of the services they are required to provide and need a provincial government that knows that cities and towns can’t do it on their own and can’t always do more with less.  
  • The heart of any recovering Ontario will centre around municipalities.
Mike Schreiner, Green Party Leader
  • Reaffirmed Green Party's commitment to Truth and Reconciliation.
  • Thanked municipal leaders and municipal staff for their work as stewards of their communities. 
  • Emphasized the need to ensure municipalities have funding they need to deliver services. 
  • Promoted a greener and more caring recovery for Ontario.  
  • Pointed out that rural communities need better access to health and social services, transit. 
  • Recognized that there can be no recovery if municipalities aren't supported. 

Ministers’ Forums
 
There were two virtual Ministers’ Forums: Supporting Vibrant Rural Communities with Health, Social Services and Human Capital Participating Ministers and Rural Economic Resilience, Infrastructure and Resource Development Participating Ministers
 
Below are highlights of the responses from the ministers on a number of topics that may be of interest to AMCTO members:
 
The Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General said that a review of a POA fine collection tools has started and he wants to ensure that municipalities are made whole wherever possible. With regard to Joint and Several Liability, he recognized that it is a serious issue but said at the current time, he does not have assurances that it will lead to reduced insurance premiums. Says that it has to be looked at through a lens of health system costs and costs to the injured plaintiffs.
 
In response to a question about mass vaccination site funding, the Hon. Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health,  indicated that the ministry would be working with public health units on these sites and additional costs will be covered.
 
The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Finance was asked about the $2.7 billion gap faced by municipalities - something that was identified by the Financial Accountability Officer, and whether he would work with the federal government on a renewed Safe Restart Agreement. The Minister indicated that Federal/Provincial/Territorial negotiations were ongoing. In response to a question about increasing payments in lieu of taxes or “heads and beds”, the minister recognized the concerns but also indicated that municipalities receive economic benefits from having those institutions in their communities. He said he will continue to work with municipalities on this. In response to a question about skyrocketing insurance costs and whether he would establish a taskforce to investigate, the minister said he appreciated the concern and how rates have increased, with difficulty to even get a quote. While not a market that the Province regulates, the ministry has been in contact with operators and insurance brokers, encouraging providers to continue operating in Ontario.

The Hon. Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation and Minister of Francophone Affairs was asked about applying Administrative Monetary Penalties to Red Light Camera technology and the minister indicated that MTO was working with Ministry of the Attorney General to make this possible. The minister also confirmed that the Government would continue to monitor the Gas Tax Program for next year, but it is a part of the Government’s plan to support municipalities.
 
The Hon. Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, received a question about updating the thirty year old MFIPPA legislation. She recognized recent discussions on the file from the County of Simcoe working group as well as AMCTO. The ministry is working closely with the Information and Privacy Commissioner and is committed to modernization.
 
The Hon. Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure was questioned about project approvals under the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program for broadband to which she responded, that hundreds of applications have been received and are at different stages of review, but it is also dependent on federal funding which they are waiting for. In terms of supporting infrastructure investments to help the economy recover, the minister reiterated the announcement made about 2021 OCIF funds and mentioned having conversations about restructuring OCIF at the AMO MOU table. They are pushing the federal government for approvals under Investing in Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). There are 750 projects across all streams with 400 approvals.
 
The Hon. Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General in response to a question about extending the Community Safety and Well Being plan deadline, indicated that she would be willing to look at interim submissions but that the plans are critical for determining what community-based assets are available for community safety and that despite the pandemic, there are alternative ways of engaging the community.
 
In response to a question about municipalities hoping for a cannabis bylaw framework to deal with noise and odor from cannabis producers while avoiding the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), the Hon. Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said he would work with Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman, and speak with colleagues at the federal level to ensure that municipal voices are heard in the licensing process. In response to a seperate question, the minister also indicated that with Safe Restart negotiations ongoing with the federal government for additional funds, he is hopeful that there will be additional money for the Social Services Relief Fund.

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Thank you ROMA for a great virtual conference! We always appreciate the chance to connect and look forward to continuing to work together to support members and strengthen our communities.


 


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