QUEEN’S PARK—Last year’s provincial budget set plenty of municipalities’ teeth on edge as it contained surprise cutbacks in health services and child care which the province eventually relented—delaying implementation until this year, with some transitional funding. Seeking to reset the narrative on its relationship with municipalities, this year during the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) annual conference in Toronto, Premier Doug Ford promised a “no surprises” budget.
Also at the ROMA conference, Rod Phillips, Ontario minister of Finance, committed to maintaining the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) at $500 million for 2021.
Minister Phillips announced that consultations on next year’s program to ensure the funding is better focused to deliver results for small, Northern and rural municipalities will take place.
“Municipalities told us how vital the OMPF is to their communities and they need information sooner to plan their budgets,” said Minister Phillips. “That’s why we announced allocations for 2020 earlier than ever before and why we’re committing today to maintain the funding envelope for next year.”
Ontario is also consulting with stakeholders on the province’s property tax system to enhance the accuracy and stability of property assessments. Municipalities rely on the more than $22 billion annually raised through the property tax system to fund local services. Minister Phillips announced today that the government will work with municipal partners to ensure vital services are supported, while building a competitive business environment that will attract investment and create jobs.
“Municipalities are critical partners in delivering services to the people of Ontario and we will continue to listen and work together to support people in every community across the province,” said Minister Phillips.
Municipal officials are quietly deciphering what these comments may actually mean, especially in light of last year’s commitment by Premier Ford to “work with municipalities to find efficiencies” during the conference, while announcing the cuts outside the venue before taking the stage.