On behalf of the City of Burlington, I commend Ontario Premier Doug Ford for listening to the concerns from residents and the members of the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO), and announcing today (Monday, May 27) the Province will cancel the retroactive cuts to municipalities and maintain the pre-budget funding levels for public health, child care and ground ambulance.
LUMCO also released a statement today applauding the Province’s deferral of the retroactive funding cuts to those three areas and giving cities time to work with the Province on next steps — LUMCO News Release 05-27-2019
Ontario’s big-city mayors met in Guelph on Friday (May 24) to discuss a joint strategy to respond to the announced Provincial budget cuts and downloading on municipalities. We were very grateful that Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark also joined us for that meeting and was able to take back to the Premier our joint LUMCO Statement — Statement from LUMCO Mayors 05-24-2019.
Here were some of the key messages and action items that emerged from that LUMCO meeting:
- The Province’s budget cuts and downloads to municipalities were hurting local communities — we are always happy to work with the Province, but it had appeared that it was not willing to work with us. Thankfully, that has changed after today’s announcement from the Premier.
There were talks to create a separate line item on the tax bill to show the impact of provincial downloads — during our Council meeting on May 27, discussion revolved around what to label this new line item and Counc. Rory Nisan cleverly suggested Financing Ontario through Reductions and Downloads.
There were talks of joining Toronto’s petition or creating an Ontario-wide one to the Province asking it cancel the budget cuts.
- LUMCO Mayors are also united in opposition to Bill 108, which will put at-risk our cities’ finances and ability to provide parkland, community facilities, and adequate public engagement to inform the planning of these neighbourhoods.
- Changes to Development Charges (DCs), which are paid by developers to offset the cost of growth, could put already-approved parks and community centres in jeopardy.
- A return to the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) rules for planning appeals means that local planning matters will once again be taken out of the hands of municipal Councils — all this, with no evidence that these changes will actually increase the supply of housing that people can afford.
- The LUMCO Mayors unanimously approved a resolution from the LUMCO Retail Cannabis Committee (which I sit on) recommending additional local regulatory controls be approved by the Province of Ontario around retail cannabis stores that would:
- A. Provide a municipality with the unrestricted ability to control the location of retail cannabis stores through zoning; and,
- B. In the alternative to A:
- Limit the concentration and number of retail cannabis stores in any one municipality by introducing a minimum distance separation measure between retail stores of a minimum of 500 metres; and,
- Cannabis stores be restricted to commercial zones or areas that permit retail stores; and,
- Clearly define sensitive land uses, in addition to schools, which would be impacted by having a retail cannabis store located next to them. Those sensitive land uses would include, but not be limited to, day cares, colleges and universities, community centres, nursing homes, libraries and actively programmed municipal parks; and,
- The current minimum safe distance of 150 metres from a cannabis retail store to a school be increased to a minimum of 500 metres from any sensitive land use.
- C. Have all municipalities that have approved retail cannabis stores be located in their jurisdictions (regardless of when the approval took place) receive 50% of all excise tax collected by the Province of Ontario, not limited to revenues in excess of $100 million; and,
- The cannabis resolution also called all Ontario municipal councils to have it presented with a request to have it endorsed and sent to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Premier’s Office; and,
- The LUMCO Retail Cannabis Committee request a meeting with Minister Caroline Mulroney regarding the resolution and request the AMO Board add this topic as an agenda item for discussion at the AMO Annual Conference in August.
I certainly commend our Premier for listening to the concerns from the LUMCO Mayors and greater public, and taking the time to work through the letter sent to the Province that laid out how municipalities and Ontario residents would be impacted and hurt by the announced cuts and downloading. I am also grateful to Minister Clark for listening to us at Friday’s LUMCO meeting in Guelph and advocating for us at the Provincial level. While this is a great announcement and an example of the Province being willing to work with its municipalities, we’re not out of the woods yet, and this is a temporary delay — though welcome, the government should be looking to their own administration to find savings, not downloaded costs to municipalities.