TORONTO, May 24, 2018 /CNW/ - The provincial election is around the corner but make no mistake – the future of critical local services is very much on the ballot this June 7.

The provincial government dictates and regulates municipal services. At the same time, municipal governments deliver and help fund key provincial programs, like social housing and child care. Our fates are deeply intertwined.

Yet, no party has offered a clear plan to support municipal governments. All have made expensive promises. And all have remained silent when asked if municipal property taxpayers will have to pay for them.

For small and rural communities, which often serve large geographic areas on a small tax base, this is a critical question. In some communities, a 1% property tax increase raises less than $50,000. Property taxpayers can barely keep up with inflation and other pressures, let alone afford any more provincial responsibilities. In fact, we need a meaningful plan to help us make ends meet.

Municipal governments collect just 9-cents of every household's tax dollar, with the federal and provincial governments collecting the balance. On less than a dime, municipal governments deliver a wide range of critical services. We also chip in for hospital expansions and equipment. Some small and rural governments pay to help recruit family doctors. We care about the wellbeing of our hometowns, but 9-cents on the dollar is no prescription for healthy and thriving communities.

Local infrastructure poses yet another challenge. Roads and bridges are the lifeblood of local economies. But the cost of paving just one kilometre of road may be shared by just five rural households, compared to 25 households in an urban centre. To understand the scale, consider that in Ontario, there are 12,000 local bridges, and enough kilometres of local roads to wrap around the earth nearly eight times.

Furthermore, the province takes a "one-size-fits all" approach to municipal regulation. What works for Kingston may not work for Kenora. Let each do what is best for them. Municipal governments know their communities better than those making the rules from Queen's Park. If we could change and eliminate many arbitrary provincial rules, local governments could better control their own costs.

Taxpayers expect governments to work together and respect their money. We need an approach that considers the impact provincial decisions have on municipal costs and property tax rates. It is time to stop passing down costs and piling them onto the municipal tax bill.

Local governments need a greater local say in how services are delivered, and a greater local share of tax revenue – a share that matches our responsibilities.

In the absence of an effective partnership with Queen's Park, many municipal Councils will face a stark choice: raise property taxes or make deep cuts to municipal services.

AMO wants to see each party's plan for municipal government. Tell us, and the people of Ontario, what actions you will take and – what actions you won't.

Lynn Dollin, President
Association of Municipalities of Ontario

Lynn Dollin is President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and Deputy Mayor of Innisfil. AMO represents almost all of Ontario's 444 municipal governments, excepting the City of Toronto.