Green Party of Ontario leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner called on the provincial government in a letter Monday to create a municipal response plan to give cities urgent financial relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, as some non-essential businesses begin to reopen this week.
Schreiner, echoing calls made by Mayor Cam Guthrie and the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario, requested to Premier Doug Ford that cities be allowed to implement new revenue-generating streams such as road tolls and land value taxation, due to the sharp decline in municipal revenue from fees and services in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown.
The sole Green provincial legislator also asked that the provincial government reverse the downloading of public health costs onto municipalities by restoring the previous funding formula that had the province covering 100 per cent of costs.
In his letter, Schreiner also gave 11 other recommendations:
- Provide an additional $350 million operating grant to cover the municipal operating costs of the 102 long-term care homes and 17,000 long-term care beds that are currently operated by municipalities;
- Reversing the $7.7 million cut to ambulance and emergency services and increasing the provincial cost share from 50% to 100%;
- Restoring provincial funding for community housing and arrange a fair cost-sharing formula consistent with other provinces for the $1.2 billion spent annually by municipalities;
- Increasing emergency stabilization funding for shelters, food banks and other non-profits, and establish permanent and predictable provincial funding to address homelessness;
- Fast-track funding for already approved infrastructure projects;
- Creating a multi-billion dollar active transportation fund for municipalities to expand cycling and walking infrastructure, as well as meeting AODA targets and physical distancing guidelines;
- Reversing previously announced child care funding cuts and restoring the provincial funding formula from 80 per cent to 100 per cent;
- Funding 50 per cent of local transit operating costs for municipalities, relieving their dependence on fare revenues, while leaving ownership and delivery in local control;
- Reversing the $5 million cut the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund and committing to increasing the fund every year consistent with the rate of inflation.
Schreiner also asked that Ford support the push for the federal government to set aside a $10 billion emergency operating fund for municipalities across Canada.
Some non-essential businesses have started operating once again as of Monday under strict guidelines from the Ontario government. The Royal City announced new construction projects starting in May, including sidewalk repairs.