Premier recommits to honour municipal upload agreement

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

ONTARIO—Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty reaffirmed his government’s commitment to honour the government’s upload agreement. However, the chair of the Manitoulin Municipal Association says this probably won’t mean any benefits to municipalities.

Mr. McGuinty reaffirmed his commitment at the 2012 Rural Ontario Municipal Association-Ontario Good Roads Association (ROMA-OGRA) combined conference.

“It was always the understanding this uploading would take place,” said Ken Noland, MMA chair. However, “it makes no difference. What the government is doing is giving us a break on one hand and taking away funding on the other hand. So it will make no difference in the long run to municipalities.”

Under the agreement signed between Ontario, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the city of Toronto in 2008, more than $1.5 billion in annual provincial costs for social assistance and court security would be uploaded from the municipal property tax base by 2018, an AMO press release explained. The agreement also says that as upload occurs, the social programs component of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) would go down. Accordingly, OMPF funding would be reduced to about $500 million by 2016, as agreed to in 2008.

Mr. McGuinty indicated that this month’s Ontario budget will not include a new permanent fund for roads and bridges. Last August, he committed to providing this funding, without giving a deadline. On Monday he told provincial municipal delegates that, in light of the $16 billion deficit, education funding would take priority over infrastructure in 2012.

The premier said that he was prepared to engage in a conversation with municipalities regarding the Drummond Report’s recommendations about creating efficiencies in the delivery of public services. In response, AMO President Gary McNamara told reporters that the municipalities welcomed the opportunity to be consulted, and that the municipal community could provide useful advice that would help the province reduce costs, improve service delivery and achieve greater efficiency.

The premier also referenced the Feed in Tariff Program, or FIT Program. The AMO made recommendations to the province last fall and Mr. McGuinty said that changes to it were coming and that some of AMO’s recommendations would be included. However, no details were given at this time.

As part of his speech on Monday, Mr. McGuinty also said rural municipalities will have more say in green projects, specifically in regards to wind and solar energy projects. He was quoted by CBC News as saying in part, “I support clean energy, I support the tens of thousands of jobs that it creates.”

After his speech, the premier told reporters the province “will do a better job in terms of incorporating the local perspective on this,” when it finishes a review of its feed-in-tariff program for green energy projects by the end of March. He said the province will be adopting some of the recommendations put forward by rural Ontario so they can achieve a better balance. He told CBC News, “I’m not going to speak to the specifics, but I can say we have listened very carefully to those concerns and incorporated those into the changes that we are making.”

However, the premier would not go so far as to say local municipalities would have veto power to deny any new wind farms or solar projects.