January 25th, 2021

ROMA 2021: Horwath repeats call for emergency operational funding for municipalities

HAMILTON — Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath vowed to keep fighting to get rural municipalities the support they need to get through and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, in remarks today at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) 2021 Virtual Conference.

Horwath has been calling on the province to provide emergency operational funding for municipalities, including covering 100 per cent of public health costs, as well as urgent investments in infrastructure like broadband, which she said has become more important than ever.

“As municipal leaders, and critical voices for your communities, you know that our province cannot recover and thrive unless rural Ontario can recover and thrive,” said Horwath. “From good, dependable jobs in forestry and mining, to the agriculture sector, to Main Street businesses, rural Ontario has given its all during COVID-19. But many of you were struggling to maintain essential services like long-term care and child care before COVID-19 hit, and right now, you need more help.

“Now is not the time for penny-pinching. It is not the time to disburse funds in drips and drabs, and it certainly is not the time for Mr. Ford to keep sitting on billions in COVID-relief funding.”

Horwath said Ford is just compounding problems that predate the pandemic by holding back disbursements under the federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement. Provincial cuts were already projected to set municipalities back billions over the next decade, as Moody’s reported in June of 2019. Now, in 2021, municipalities are facing a $2.4 billion shortfall because of the pandemic.

“If families in rural Ontario and communities across the province are going to make it through COVID-19, and if we are all going to bounce back in the weeks and months ahead, then partnering with, supporting, and investing in municipal governments has to happen,” said Horwath. “We will always fight to protect your decision-making powers, take pressure off your budgets, and ensure that the province takes on its fair share, so that folks can continue to count on you, and the services you provide.”