Pickering calling on Province to ease the burden of services now on the backs of local taxpayers

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Published January 24, 2024 at 4:45 pm

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaking at an AMO conference in August

Pickering Council joined the chorus of Ontario municipalities who want Premier Doug Ford to sit down with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) for a “comprehensive social and economic prosperity review” of municipal-funded responsibilities.

After decades of provincial downloading, AMO and the communities they advocate for believe it’s time Queen’s Park takes a hard look at the services now funded on the backs of local taxpayers.

Ward 2 Councillor Mara Nagy says a more “balanced approach” to paying for services is needed, especially with taxes and inflation and the rising costs of social services outpacing any increases in salary the average ratepayer may enjoy.

“We’re calling on the Province to sit down with AMO in good faith,” said Nagy at Monday’s night’s Pickering Council meeting. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

Pickering is asking the Premier to parlay with AMO because the current provincial-municipal fiscal arrangements are “undermining Ontario’s economic prosperity and quality of life.”

The motion declared that nearly a third of municipal spending in Ontario is for services in areas of provincial responsibility and expenditures are outpacing provincial contributions by nearly $4 billion a year. As well, municipal revenues, such as property taxes, “do not grow with the economy or inflation,” particularly when municipalities are being asked to foot the bill for the “significant” infrastructure investments required to keep with provincially-mandated housing targets.

Local government are also being asked to take on health and social challenges – like homelessness, supporting asylum seekers and addressing the mental health and addictions crises – which has all made the funding balance “less than equitable.”

The motion declared that the Province should invest more in the prosperity of communities and that starts with a “re-evaluation” of who pays for what services.

“Property taxpayers – including people on fixed incomes and small businesses – can’t afford to subsidize income re-distribution programs for those most in need.”

“The province can.”

The motion passed 5-1, with only Ward 1 Councillor Lisa Robinson casting a dissenting vote.

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