Connecting Rural Ontario: Policy Highlights
COVID-19 - Municipal Fiscal Relief and Economic Recovery
- During the pandemic, cooperation between governments has been critical to keeping people safe, maintaining key services and safeguarding the economy.
- The $4 billion in coordinated support from the provincial and federal governments has been critical to maintain key municipal services for 2020. Phase 2 is providing early support in 2021 and helping with capital investments essential to Ontario’s economic recovery.
- ROMA appreciates the per household allocation of this funding, which ensures all municipalities across Ontario are supported.
- Provincial funding for social services during the pandemic helped support the most vulnerable in our communities. It has been flexible, timely and lifesaving.
- The Province also maintained the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) for 2020.OMPF addresses regional economic imbalances and is critical to economic sustainability of many smaller municipalities.
- Strong and stable municipal services and infrastructure are fundamental to economic growth. Municipal governments will be important to the COVID economic recovery. They must be financially stable.
- Public health staff have been working to keep people safe in the face of immense pressures.
- Sustained reliable funding to public health is now more important than ever and will be critical for 2021.
- There is an opportunity to address the local and provincial health care challenges exposed by the pandemic through the modernization efforts that were already underway when the pandemic hit.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the stark disparities in broadband access across Ontario. Gaps in internet and cell services can be found throughout Ontario – especially in rural, northern, and remote areas.
- Connectivity is needed for remote work, online learning and access to vital services like health care. It will also be critical to rural economic recovery and growth.
- Given the scale of the need, many municipal governments are becoming more engaged in telecommunications, although broadband is not a municipal responsibility. ROMA has created two comprehensive resources tailored to rural Ontario municipalities to help them navigate potential roles in improving broadband.
- The federal and provincial governments have responded with funding that is an important step towards improved connectivity. It will take continued support, with governments and the private sector working together, to address the problem for the long-term.
- COVID-19 intensified the challenges that have faced long-term care in Ontario for years. There aren’t enough beds to meet demand and provincial funding has not kept up with the more complex health needs of residents.
- In rural areas, the ability to access a long-term care bed locally is essential and needs to be part of the planning for allocating beds across the province.
- Recruiting and retaining qualified staff is a challenge across Ontario but especially in northern and rural communities.
- Municipalities contribute more than $350 million per year over and above the provincial funding operating subsidy, not including capital costs. The municipal property tax base is not a sufficient or fair source to provide this service.
- ROMA supports the call on the Province’s long-term care commission to look at key issues, like staffing, facilities, governance, regulations and inspections, and infection control measures.
- Long-term care needs adequate, stable, and predictable multi-year funding that our residents can depend on.
- Municipal roads and bridges are the lifeline that binds rural communities and economies together.
- To maintain this infrastructure in good repair and expand it to support economic growth, Ontario communities need guaranteed, long-term funding from the federal and provincial governments.
- Maintaining the formula-based Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund is essential and much appreciated.
- Stimulus measures to accelerate and improve infrastructure programs will be vital to Ontario and Canada’s COVID economic recovery.
- Municipal governments are on the front line of climate change. Municipalities are investing to build communities that are resilient and adaptive to climate change.
- Infrastructure and services are needed to protect property, secure public safety and ensure environmental quality of waterways.
- Data, mapping, and public education about high water levels are also critical. More investments in these and other infrastructure systems, like stormwater management, are needed to protect communities.
- More federal and provincial investment in green infrastructure and wetlands, which improve flood control, would also stimulate economic growth as part of the pandemic recovery.
- ROMA welcomes the long-awaited transition to full producer responsibility for the Blue Box program. It puts the responsibility for recycling on those that have the greatest ability to make change – the producers.
- Producers must take responsibility for end-of-life management of blue box materials in rural and northern communities across Ontario to truly fulfill the intent of this transition.
- Municipalities look forward to an orderly transition. The new system needs to improve accessibility for residents, increase recycling rates and make it easier to do the right thing.
- Ontarians pay the highest policing costs in the country. This includes both provincial and municipal spending.
- ROMA is providing a rural lens on proposed regulations related to the province’s Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019, which aimed to modernize policing. Consultation has been delayed due to the pandemic.
- The new regulations will impact the local governance structures for the Ontario Provincial Police, who often serve rural communities. It is important that police services boards continue to reflect the voice of the community that is paying for the service and that democratically elected officials retain strong oversight of police services.
- Creating safe communities requires a range of municipal services, ranging from policing to social services, recreation and infrastructure. All needs must be balanced.
- Ontario is the only province or territory in Canada where housing is a municipal responsibility.
- COVID-19 has intensified the housing crisis as low-income people have faced job loss or reduced income.
- ROMA joins AMO calling on the Province to work with municipalities and the federal government to develop more housing and to create a blueprint to end chronic homelessness in Ontario.
- Building and repairing municipal community housing would also help stimulate the post-COVID economic