TORONTO – Announcements from provincial government officials at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference represent a mixed bag of good news, bad news and uncertainty, says Wellington County Warden Kelly Linton.
Linton was busy with meetings and delegations on behalf of both the county and Centre Wellington, where he is mayor, during the conference, which ran from Aug. 18 to 21.
The announcement that the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund, the largest unconditional funding transfer municipalities receive, will remain stable for this coming year was a welcome surprise to some delegates.
However, Linton noted in a telephone interview from the conference, the reprieve is temporary.
“Well they said for one year so that’s good news. It gives us another year to have sustainable funding,” Linton said.
“So hearing that was good news.
“It means something different for the county than the town.”
He continued, “stable funding means that we’re (Centre Wellington) still going to probably see a 15 per cent reduction from the town’s perspective.
“But at least they’re not restructuring at this point.
“They’re not slashing it, we got one more year of kind of certainty. So that was quasi good news for sure.”
News that the province would go ahead with plans to require municipalities to provide 30% of public health funding caused concerns among municipal representatives.
But Linton said he wasn’t sure how that would play out.
“We are not really sure,” he stated. “We had some discussions about that today … We’re a little concerned with how that’s going to go.”
Linton said county officials were able to meet with health minister Christine Elliott at the conference.
“One of the questions we did ask her, is the province going ahead on shifting to 10 regional (public health) units across the province, because we have some significant concerns about that and what it’s going to mean for our funding perspective,” said Linton.
He noted Elliot said the plans were still under discussion “and that it was not carved in stone. So that was good to hear.
“So we have some homework to do to figure out what the announcement yesterday actually will mean to Wellington County and our involvement in the health unit here.”
Word that the province will no longer be funding new child care spaces will definitely put pressure on local taxpayers, Linton predicted.
“If that’s the case the county would have to pick up the tab for some of the projects that we have in the pipeline, so unless something changes on that front it would be a download that would be shifted to county taxpayers that’s currently picked up by the province,” he said.
Better received by municipal officials was word the province will reduce reporting requirements for municipalities.
“That’s very welcome,” Linton said.
“It was just last year the county went through and presented to the Ontario government a whole list of all the reports that are required by the provincial government, all the different ministries … I think what happened is that was significant in their decision to really move ahead with this reduction in red tape.
“The amount of staff time that it takes to do all these duplicate reports is really significant. So that’s good news for sure.”
Asked about the mood among delegates following the announcements, which came down early in the week, Linton said, “It’s a bit of a mixed bag.”
“There is kind of a feeling of uncertainly on where they’re going to be moving, what things they might pull back on and what they might move ahead on.”
He added, “One of the things that is in their favor is they had the most meetings ever at AMO.
“They had over 900 meetings.
“I know that both the town and the county received all the requests that we put in to meet.
“They are following through on their commitment to meet with municipalities.
“So hopefully that’s a good sign.”