August 2017
Backgrounder

The Local Share Campaign: Financing Our Future
  • Municipal governments collect just 9% of all tax dollars, even though they provide a broad range of critical daily services. For the past two years, AMO has undertaken in-depth analysis and broad consultation on how to ensure that municipal governments can afford to provide these services over the long-term.
  • AMO’s fiscal analysis found that Ontario’s municipal governments face an average annual shortfall of $4.9 billion every year for the next 10 years just to maintain current services and address long-standing infrastructure needs. Property taxes would need to increase by 8% annually to cover this shortfall alone.
  • AMO is proposing a new 1% HST dedicated to local infrastructure services to provide Ontario’s municipal governments with a greater local share of tax revenue that is more diverse and dependable.
  • This approach would also ensure that everyone who uses municipal services, including visitors, help pay for them, and it would include protection for low-income Ontarians.
Infrastructure
  • Municipal governments own more infrastructure in Ontario than either the federal or provincial governments.  Much of it is aging and in need of modern upgrades or replacement. A growing population is also increasing the burden on existing infrastructure and fueling the demand for new investments. It’s estimated that Ontario faces a municipal infrastructure gap of $60 billion over 10 years.
  • AMO continues to press for dedicated, long-term, sustainable infrastructure funding programs. Smaller, rural and northern municipalities are particularly hard pressed to maintain and operate infrastructure on a limited property tax base.
  • Ontario’s municipalities also operate 82 public transit systems, which are critical to keeping economies moving. The municipal tax base cannot support these investments alone. Besides the Local Share campaign, continued federal and provincial support will also be needed to expand public transit effectively.
Emergency Services
  • Emergency service costs are growing faster than inflation, in part driven by provincial laws and policies.
  • The increased demand for paramedic services should mean greater investment in these services, and improvements to provincial dispatch and policies on emergency transfers – both key drivers to improving outcomes and response times.
  • The province has also decided to pilot “fire medics” (firefighters also certified as paramedics), with no evidence that it would improve patient outcomes. Firefighters are funded exclusively by municipalities, while paramedic services are shared 50/50 with the province. Even though the pilots will be voluntary, arbitrators have imposed piloted programs on unwilling municipal governments in the past. They must be barred by law from doing so.
  • It has been years in the making, but AMO expects new legislation on policing modernization this fall. AMO is looking for reforms to allow civilian employees to perform some non-core tasks that don’t require an officer, and improvements to police oversight and governance. With changes, better public safety outcomes can be achieved at less cost.
  • AMO continues to advocate for reforms to interest arbitration, which continues to focus on replicating agreements from other communities, regardless of a local community’s capacity to pay.
  • AMO is also working hard to protect rural volunteer fire services by opposing the firefighter union’s targeting of “double-hatters.”  The union is imposing steep fines on professional firefighters who choose to volunteer in their small, rural hometowns, leaving many volunteer services vulnerable.
Housing & Homelessness
  • Ontario is the only province in Canada where social housing is a municipal responsibility and Ontario’s municipal governments contribute more than the federal and provincial governments.
  • This responsibility is a growing challenge: the demand for social housing is rising to record levels, housing is aging, and maintenance costs are increasing. For example, there are more than 171,000 households on wait lists for affordable housing and there is a $1.5 billion backlog for just the minimum capital repairs.
  • The housing crisis is beyond the scope of any one government to address on its own. AMO looks forward to increased federal government involvement, as well as much needed work by the provincial government to create a modern, sustainable system.
  • In terms of housing affordability, AMO supports targeted efforts to address home prices that reflect difference in housing markets across the province. Housing data needs to be monitored for the full impacts to be understood.
Marijuana Legislation
  • Many municipal responsibilities will be impacted by legalized marijuana. Municipal governments will need new licensing, planning and zoning measures to manage the concentration and location of these businesses. Police will need to address new issues, such as driving under the influence, and municipal public health will need to manage potential harms of the drug.
  • Ontario municipalities will need some form of tax revenue from marijuana sales to support these new responsibilities, and to ensure that public health and safety are protected.
Workplace Legislation
  • Municipal governments are responsible employers. They understand that stable and fair employment contributes to the local community and economy. Bill 148 appears to be focused on employers who may provide fewer benefits and more precarious employment than municipal governments.
  • However, this bill could have a number of unintended consequences on many municipal collective agreements. There are also overlaps  from other legislation, resulting in possible conflict or confusion.
  • Before Bill 148 goes to second reading, AMO is calling for a review of the cumulative impact of the province’s many changes to workplace law and regulations. Many of the Bill’s proposals lack critical economic analysis, and Ontario should not become an economic field experiment. Local governments need to be able to afford to provide critical daily services, without creating undue pressure on property taxpayers.
Waste Legislation
  • Ontario is transitioning to a new waste diversion system which will hold producers/retailers of products and packaging fully responsible for the cost of recycling or disposal of their waste.
  • AMO is working with the City of Toronto, the Municipal Waste Association and the Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario to provide input on the complex transition. It’s critical that the new regime supports high levels of diversion, and maintains service levels across all of Ontario that match what municipalities currently provide.
Planning Reform: Local Planning Appeal Tribunal
  • The Province is proposing to convert the Ontario Municipal Board into the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). This is much needed reform to the current system and AMO welcomes change.
  • Broadly, the tribunal would respect local decision-making unless it was contrary to provincial priorities. For decisions which are found contrary, the Tribunal would return it to the municipal government to ‘re-decide’. It also puts in place provisions to resolve conflicts more quickly, as well as supports for citizens navigating the appeals process.