Mayors in Oshawa, Whitby and other Ontario big cities calling for more provincial support for homelessness and addiction


Published June 21, 2022 at 10:29 am

Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) are calling for an emergency joint meeting with the province to find solutions for chronic homelessness, mental health, safety, and addictions issues.

While all Ontarians have felt the brunt of the pandemic, our most marginalized and vulnerable populations have been disproportionately impacted, and many of those are housed – and often inadequately housed – in big cities.

There is a clear lack of support for those in need of urgent shelter and healthcare, and municipal governments cannot continue to step in on this crisis when we are not structurally or financially set up to do so, OBCM declared in a news release. “These issues are the sole jurisdiction of the provincial government. As a result, the impacts are not only felt by our most vulnerable citizens, but also in our downtown cores where our communities’ businesses and families are suffering the economic impact. Public spaces that were once booming with tourism and economic opportunities have turned into places of job loss, businesses closures and immense stress for the small to medium sized businesses trying to rebuild after two years of Covid lockdowns.”

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said they are asking the Province for more resources – “again” – to address these problems. “We don’t have the resources to do it alone.”

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, Chair of Ontario Big City Mayors , said civic leaders are at a “breaking point.”

“The solutions to this crisis are already known by the province. The Big City Mayors have joined a chorus of others for years on these solutions to be funded and implemented. We are the voice for the most vulnerable in our communities. They are not just falling through the cracks in our healthcare and housing systems, but many are now dying at an alarming rate,” he said. “This is unacceptable in the Province of Ontario and must be addressed immediately.”

OBCM shares the Ontario BIA Association framework on the current challenges and effects of social issues and housing, including the lack of a balanced housing stock that deteriorates the community ecosystem.

“The impact to BIA communities throughout the pandemic has been unprecedented” said Kay Matthews, Ontario BIA Association Executive Director. “Small Businesses and the main streets that foster them are the backbone of Ontario’s economy, current socio-economic issues are detrimentally impacting the main street economy. Through collaboration with Ontario’s Big City Mayors, we can collectively raise the alarm on the need for a more robust social support system.”

It is critical that the province comes together collaboratively with the municipal sector and other key stakeholders including the Canadian Mental Health Association, AMO, MARCO, law enforcement and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association with an immediate desire to solve the crisis.

Our communities’ businesses are Ontario’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and creators, they are often the ‘heart’ of our communities, representing heritage, economy, arts, revitalization, and tourism. Without these businesses, we cannot rebuild Ontario as we recover from the pandemic. Helping our most vulnerable will make for a stronger, more vibrant Ontario. We look forward to the province joining us in our urgent call for action.

Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM), formerly known as the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario, includes mayors of 29 single and lower-tier cities – including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering and Clarington – with a population of 100,000 or more, who collectively represent nearly 70 per cent of Ontario’s population.

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