The financial impact of COVID-19 on Ontario’s municipalities is real and staggering.
Ontario residents rely on municipalities to provide critical services every day – And COVID-19 has crippled their finances.
If you think about it from the moment you wake up to when you lay your head down to sleep you are using a municipal service.
The water for your morning shower. The sidewalk, road or bus you use to get to school or work. The park where you take your children to play and the rink where you first tought them to skate.
Across the province, municipalities big and small are facing real financial challenges.
Unemployed residents are seeking tax deferrals. Revenues from facility rentals are gone, while the expenses for maintaining the facilities remain. Transit ridership has all but evaporated as we work from home.
Mississauga is projecting a $100 million shortfall. In a best-case scenario, the City of Toronto is projecting a $1.5 billion gap which could easily go higher.
Here in Ottawa, the city is burning through $1 million a day!
Cities have already laid off seasonal workers and if the pressing financial needs are not addressed soon, we could see layoffs of full-time employees in our biggest cities.
Imagine tens of thousands of municipal public servants from Windsor to Alexandria laid-off and the impact to some of the most important services that would result.
How can our province recover economically if so many public servants are without work?
But how can cities pay their salaries if the revenues are gone while the expense remains? Municipalities in Ontario cannot run annual deficits, and rightfully so.
The only way to avoid layoffs, or massive increases to property taxes and bus fares is support from our Federal and Provincial governments.
It should be clear to everyone, there will be no economic recovery without a solution to the municipal financial crisis.
Mayors from across Ontario, including Mayor Watson, have called for the Province to provide assistance.
Our caucus has called for the establishment of a $4 billion emergency fund to support municipalities in meeting the needs of residents.
This week I asked the Premier and the Minister of Transportation about supporting our cities and transit agencies. While there have been some encouraging words from the provincial government, they have yet to back it up with a firm financial commitment.
I was happy to see the Prime Minister’s initial commitment to supporting municipalities across Canada and will continue to press the provincial government to do the same.