The Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario met in Guelph on Friday to again call on the provincial government to delay planned cuts that cities warn will interfere with budgets already passed by municipalities, saying they “continue to be alarmed”.
LUMCO Chair Cam Guthrie said in a press release that they are concerned by the “retroactive cuts” and are “united in concern about Bill 108, which could put at risk cities’ finances and ability to provide parkland, community facilities, and well-planned neighbourhoods.”
The mayors called on province to immediately extend the deadline for consultation on Bill 108 from the current June 1 to Sept. 30 so that cities are allowed “adequate time to comment.”
Mayor Guthrie and LUMCO released an initial statement criticizing the progressive Conservative Ontario government on April 30. The province then announced a fund to help cities find efficiencies, with Premier Doug Ford encouraging mayors to cut 4 per cent.
The mayors said they understood the position that the government was in to balance the budget and get debt under control, but “again call on the Government of Ontario to defer the implementation of these funding cuts”.
Continuing in his statement as chair, Guthrie added that they want to “work together on how to minimize the impact of the people we all represent, and the services they depend on.”
To absorb the funding cuts the province has made cities “will be forced to consider increasing taxes or fees, cutting services, raising reserves, or deferring infrastructure and capital projects,” he added.
“Unlike the provincial government, municipalities are required by law to balance their budgets annually and cannot run a deficit.”
Guthrie and the mayors said on Friday they are “equally concerned” about the proposed changes to Bill 108 that they put “at risk” the ability for the city to provide parkland, community facilities and “adequate public engagement to inform the planning of neighbourhoods.”
Development Charges, fees paid by developers as a measure to offset the costs associated with growth, could put projects already approved by Council into jeopardy — in Guelph, that could mean the new main library or a south end recreation centre.
“A return to the old OMB rules for planning appeals means that local planning matters will once again be taken out of the hands of municipal Councils,” Guthrie wrote.
While LUMCO stands with the province’s moves to improve variety in the housing market — including more affordable housing — they believe that, “by working together, we can find better ways to achieve them.”