The $19 billion in federal support for provinces and municipalities is a long-overdue and welcomed development, but it falls far short of what’s urgently needed to address the crisis facing local governments, says CUPE Ontario.
“We’ve been ringing the alarm bells over how the crisis is impacting the local services Ontarians rely on, like public health, land ambulance services, childcare, public transit, and a whole host of other vital local services,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, which represents 80,000 municipal employees. “Our efforts have led to this important commitment, but this must be only a first installment, because municipalities need much more support.”
Of the $19 billion, only $2 billion will cover operating costs for revenue-strapped municipalities across the country. This falls far short of what municipalities need, as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has said that at least $10 billion is required nation-wide. The City of Toronto, alone, recently announced a deficit of $1.35 billion.
“The Ford Conservatives applauded the federal government’s announcement but haven’t taken this opportunity to make a commitment of their own,” said Hahn. “We need a provincial government that will stand with local communities and match the federal funding dollar for dollar.” Without such support, the union says local communities will see the loss of critically important services people rely on as a result of municipalities being forced to instituted significant job losses.
CUPE Ontario has previously called for more provincial support. In a first-ever, historic move, the union wrote joint letters with the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO), calling urgently for relief and enhanced financial support for local governments issued in May and again early July.
“Now that the federal government has started to step up with this down payment, Ontario has to follow suit with its share of the funding,” said Ann Jenkins, Chair of CUPE Ontario’s Municipal Employees Coordinating Committee. “Our cities and towns need enhanced support today and into the future to ensure the recovery we need.”