Remarks by:
Lynn Dollin, AMO President and
Deputy Mayor, Town of Innisfil

Thursday, January 18, 2018
10:15 a.m.
Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs
Holiday Inn 30
Fairway Road South, Kitchener

2018 Pre-Budget Submission
(Check Against Delivery)

Chair Hoggarth and members of the Committee, it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to present our 2018 Pre-Budget Submission.

I am Lynn Dollin, the President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, AMO.  I am also the Deputy Mayor of the Town of Innisfil.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario is where Ontario’s municipalities come together and work together, to achieve shared goals and meet common challenges.

Facing common challenges also means imagining what a prosperous future might look like for our communities.  

After two years of discussions and practical fiscal analysis, we have put forward a proposed action plan, which we have called the Local Share.

This specific and detailed plan would fund critical local services and infrastructure in communities across the province.  It would finance roads, bridges, and transit among other people services.  It could help reduce the upward pressure on property tax bills.  It would diversify how we fund local communities, without provincial treasury dollars, through a 1% increase to the HST.

Ontario’s municipal leaders remain committed to implementing a solution to our systemic challenge – a solution that sustainably meets local needs over time.  Ontarians themselves have told us they are willing to consider this bigger and bolder option.

AMO commissioned province-wide polling at three different times in 2016 and 2017.  In each poll, a majority of Ontarians supported a 1% HST increase if it went to local governments, and if it went to addressing local infrastructure and service needs. In fact, the latest poll of 1,000 Ontarians in June 2017, saw the number of people supporting this option grow to 73%.

For Ontarians, municipal needs are important. Ontarians live and breathe their local experience on a daily basis.  They understand the challenges their communities face.  They understand the challenge that property taxation offers – a tax that has no relation to the ability to pay.

With today’s submission, AMO is, again, seeking the support of Queen’s Park – to be visionary, to understand the challenges faced by Ontario’s municipal governments, to be brave with us to find a more solid foundation for the future.

Let me touch on the specifics of why.  

AMO research has shown that to deliver existing municipal services and close the infrastructure gap, every year for the next ten years, municipalities will need an additional $4.9 billion.  This need is on top of inflation-adjusted property tax and user fee increases.  It also assumes that all existing federal and provincial commitments to cost-share programs and infrastructure funding programs are fulfilled into the future.

A 1% HST increase, with revenues distributed to all municipalities meets about half of that $4.9 billion problem – around $2.5 billion.  My point is that even if the Local Share was implemented tomorrow, it means we still need to focus on better ways to operationalize provincially legislated issues that affect municipal governments.  This, too, must be part of the future.

There are far-reaching implications to how municipal needs are met or affected by evolving federal and provincial legislation.  I’ll give two current priorities as examples:

Federally, the successful implementation of cannabis legalization will require municipal enforcement and other resources.  Discussions with the Ontario Ministry of Finance will start soon on the sharing of the federal excise tax.  Municipalities are seeking a share of revenues given the expected impact on our communities, as it would be wrong for property tax payers to have to pay for this federal policy. I am confident an agreement with the Province on this issue can be achieved that is fair and meets municipal needs.

Provincially, this also includes addressing interest arbitration and helping municipalities better manage escalating police and fire costs.  Let me give you a staggering figure to illustrate why this is necessary.

If firefighters and police officers had received the same increases that other municipal unions did between 2010 and 2014, it would have meant $485 million in savings to municipal governments.  That could build a lot of infrastructure.  That total, $485 million, would build about 1750 kilometers of road – that’s a road from Windsor to Montreal and back.

Provincial inaction is driving these municipal service costs even higher.  Ontarians already pay the highest policing costs in the country.

I’ve just mentioned three things:  Local Share, cannabis revenues, interest arbitration.

I could mention many others:  protecting double hatters, fire safety regulations that do not become a new unfunded mandate, an improved land ambulance dispatch system, and a smooth transition to producer waste management.  

The reality is provincial and municipal policies intersect in many areas.  We are the front line of so many services that make communities strong and that grow the economy.

Our issues are important.  They matter to Ontarians.  Polling results consistently tell us that.  Together we need to develop a plan that helps us make ends meet and to help our communities succeed.  That means a plan for the short-term and a shared plan for the long-term.

To conclude, Ontarians expect their governments to work together for the common good, on pressing and emerging issues.  They expect governments to respect one another.  They expect a plan, they expect success.

If the Local Share and the ideas in this submission are not part of the plan, Ontarians and municipal governments will need to know what is.

Thank you, again, for this opportunity.  I’d be happy to take your questions.