OTTAWA – POLITICS – The Premier of Ontario addressed the Association of Ontario Municipalities this morning:
My friends, I’m so happy to be here today.
I want to thank the entire AMO Leadership for all the hard work that went into this year’s conference….
And a special thank you to Mayor Jim Watson, an absolutely fantastic mayor… and the whole city council for hosting here in your beautiful city.
And I want to recognize my outstanding Ministers, especially Steve Clark, for everything they’re doing on our government’s behalf…..
And our many caucus members here today, too many to name…thank you for being here.
We’re having over 900 meetings over the course of this conference.
Our government’s relationship with our municipalities is incredibly important to me.
We believe building a better province starts with investing in its people.
We need to help them…not with top-down approaches directed by Queen’s Park…but from the ground up…
That’s why our government is committed to building strong, local partnerships with our municipalities.
And that starts with working with municipalities to make historic, strategic and local investments in our schools, hospitals, transit, highways, and other critical infrastructure.
Over the next 10 years, our government plans to invest $144 billion dollars in local projects across the province.
That includes over $90 billion alone in public transit and provincial highways to help get people and goods moving…
We’ve nominated 350 projects to the federal government for key investments in transit, schools and hospitals.
Including 201 transit projects outside the GTHA.
As well as 144 road and bridge projects for rural and northern Ontario communities.
Our 10-year capital plan also includes $17 billion dollars to build and renovate our hospitals.
We’re investing $13 billion dollars to build new schools, and $1.4 billion to fix existing ones.
And finally, we’re investing $315 million to improve and expand Internet and cell service into more rural and remote communities.
I’m really excited to be the first one to tell you today, right here on this stage…
We will be opening up the intake for the Community, Culture and Recreation Stream on September 3rd of the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
This represents $1 billion dollars for important local projects, like community centres, sports arenas, and cultural centres.
We’re giving you the time to prepare, and we’re really looking forward to receiving your applications in September.
That’s what we mean by investing from the ground up.
That’s what we mean by investing in people.
Which leads me to the reason why our government believes these investments in our local communities are so critical.
You know me. I believe in honest conversations.
It’s no secret that the province inherited a massive debt and deficit from the previous government.
But not only did we inherit a massive deficit, we also inherited broken systems…
Hallway health care, schools literally falling apart, overcrowded subways and buses, students failing math, and social services on life support.
We can’t continue throwing money at the problem as our predecessors did…into top-down, big government schemes.
That is neither compassionate or sustainable.
Instead, we’re going to work to build Ontario’s future together.
Municipalities know how to make every dollar count because you know where it’s needed most.
And the solution shouldn’t be imposing one-size-fits-all solutions from Queen’s Park…
The solution is giving municipalities the tools and supports they need to have more flexibility with their budgets…
Find savings, drive efficiencies, and modernize service delivery.
Our government established the Audit and Accountability Fund earlier this year…
And I’m so excited to learn that 90% of you have taken up our offer for funding for line-by-line reviews.
And I’m especially thankful to all of you because we offered this to school boards as well, but only two took us up…it’s disappointing.
The reviews are a $7 million dollar investment to help school boards and large municipalities protect core public services for future generations.
Our government also set up the Municipal Modernization Fund…
$200 million dollars to help 405 small and rural municipalities achieve efficiencies and plan for their future.
We recognize our government moved quickly when we came into office to address our inherited challenges…
But we’ve listened to you.
Today, I’m so excited to announce to this room that we’re providing transitional funding for your budgeting process in 2020…
To help our municipal partners pursue greater fiscal sustainability and protect the future of public services.
So you can continue to deliver important services people rely on every day, including public health and child care.
And we are increasing funding for land ambulance services by nearly 4% this year…and it will continue to increase into 2020.
There will also be no changes to the structure of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund for 2020 to provide you with greater certainty in fiscal planning.
So that’s step one – giving our municipal partners more flexibility with their budgets, and ensuring you can deliver value for the taxpayers…because there is only one taxpayer.
But it’s also important to ensure the province is not getting in the way of your success.
Red tape and too many regulations stand in the way of local communities focusing on the things that matter most – the frontline services people rely on every day.
We’re tackling the mountain of annual provincial reporting requirements that you face – over 400 to be exact from 16 different ministries.
Through top-notch work led by Minister Clark, we’ve identified 94 reports to be eliminated and 27 reports to be consolidated or simplified.
And that’s just the start.
We gave municipalities back your voice when it comes to hosting renewable energy projects…
And why our government scrapped the awful Green Energy Act, one of the worst pieces of legislation ever, that stripped local communities of your voice in these planning decisions.
Reducing red tape is also a big part of our Housing Supply Action Plan.
This is one of my favourites…we eliminated a rule that required an environmental assessment before a municipality could plow its streets.
Can you imagine having to get a permit from the government every time you wanted to shovel your driveway in the winter?
Well that was the reality for municipalities for a long time.
Finally, I want to say thank you to each and every person in this room.
All of you represent the level of government closest to the people.
I’ve criss-crossed every corner of this province…and I’ve come to know all the mayors who are absolute champions for their communities and their constituents.
We’ve been working with Mayors Scarpitti, Barrow, and Bevilacqua in York Region to help them bring better subway service to the people they serve.
We’ve worked with Mayors Holder and Preston in London and St. Thomas to get people moving through their rapid bus transit projects.
I joined Mayor Brian Saunderson in Collingwood for Elvisfest and I worked with Mayor Graydon Smith in Bracebridge, Mayor Phil Harding of Muskoka Lakes and Mayor Scott Aitchison in Huntsville to addressing flooding.
Through it all, I’ve seen how our mayors are deeply passionate about working for the people.
And we have our own champions on our team who have served municipally.
Minister Clark and Minister Fedeli are former mayors.
Monte McNaughton and Doug Downey – both former municipal councillors…
And there are many others on our team who have been in your shoes and who have worked to leave their communities better than they found them.
We know the issues you hear from your constituents mean the world to them.
I was a Toronto City Councillor for four years myself – and I can’t tell you the number of times I saw ridiculous things happening to my constituents.
We need to put local communities back in the driver’s seat of their own affairs.
This is all part of an ongoing conversation between our governments led by Minister Clark and our municipal partners.
I encourage you to keep the conversation going.
We’re 100% committed to taking an active role to support you, so you can continue to do what you do best – put people first.
Thank you for joining this morning. Have a wonderful conference.