This is the complete Policy Highlight Document for January 2018 that was part of this year’s conference.ROMA Speaks – Policy Highlights January 2018
Fiscal Sustainability: Advancing the Local Share Campaign
Ontario’s municipal governments face an average annual shortfall of $4.9 billion every year for the
next 10 years to maintain current services and finance infrastructure needs.
Provincial transfers are not enough and relying on the property tax base to make ends meet is not
sustainable. Across Ontario, property taxes would have to increase by 8% each year to cover the
Smaller property tax bases in rural municipalities make this approach unsustainable and user fees are
often insufficient to cover the costs of offering municipal programs and services across large
ROMA supports AMO’s Local Share proposal for a new 1% HST increase to finance local
infrastructure needs. The Local Share would create a dedicated and dependable infrastructure
revenue stream for Ontario’s rural municipal governments.
Our roads, buildings and bridges are aging. Municipal governments in Ontario own more infrastructure
than any other order of government. Much of it was built in the 1950s and 60s.
The cost of maintaining or replacing municipal roads and bridges alone accounts for nearly half
of the municipal funding gap. While federal and provincial infrastructure funding programs are
welcome and appreciated, more needs to be done.
This challenge is especially significant in rural jurisdictions. Municipal roads and bridges are the lifeline
that binds rural communities and economies together. Distance and extreme weather events in
remote areas combined with a small property tax base make rural infrastructure costly to maintain.
New Asset management regulations require significant effort. Recent provincial commitments to
provide capacity-building supports to smaller municipal governments are necessary and appreciated.
Economic Vitality in Rural Communities
Rural communities need access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband to participate in the
digital economy. Ensuring adequate connectivity across rural Ontario will stimulate business
development and innovation and improve youth retention.
Rural Ontario must attract and retain immigrants to address labour market shortages and respond
to aging demographics. Diversity also enhances our social fabric.
Policies that support small businesses and the food, agri-business and natural resource sectors
are needed to grow rural economies.
Emergency Service Costs
Emergency service costs are growing faster than inflation. Policing, fire and paramedic expenses are
increasing while provincial funding supports and cost-reducing dispatch technology lag behind.
Ontario’s fire-medic pilot project proposal may lead to increased costs and unnecessary service
duplication for rural municipal governments if replicated in unwilling municipalities through interest
ROMA is against the targeting of ‘double-hatters’ who volunteer for their hometown volunteer fire
departments because this practice threatens the sustainability of rural volunteer fire departments.
Policing modernization measures introduced by the provincial government fall short of what is
needed to manage policing costs. ROMA will advocate to promote efficient and effective policing
services that rural municipalities can afford.
Land Use Appeal Reform: From OMB to LPAT
Land use appeal processes in Ontario are undergoing significant reform. With the Royal Assent of Bill
139, the Ontario Municipal Board is to be replaced by the Land Planning Appeal Tribunal.
These changes mean that rural municipal councils and staff must be clear that planning decisions are
consistent with both municipal planning documents and with provincial policy.
ROMA is supportive of education initiatives aimed at increasing municipal awareness of these
significant changes to the land use planning appeal process.
Recreational Cannabis Legalization
While only a handful of municipalities will see a storefront open in their jurisdiction, legal cannabis will
directly reach rural communities through online orders and mail-delivery. Cannabis cultivation and
production sites are also cropping up across rural Ontario.
Cannabis legalization may result in increased policing, bylaw, emergency response and social
service costs for municipalities. As front-line governments, municipalities will be the first to respond
to negative impacts in our communities.
Rural communities must be ‘kept whole.’ Municipal governments should not have to finance the
costs of implementing federal and provincial directions.
An adequate portion of cannabis tax revenues should also be given to rural municipal governments to
address the impacts of recreational cannabis legalization and substance abuse.
Rural voices must be respected. Some communities welcome recreational cannabis legalization as an
economic opportunity, while others are unwilling hosts. The provincial and federal governments must
respond to local perspectives and bylaws.
Social Vitality in Rural Municipalities
School closures threaten the social and economic fabric of rural municipalities, especially in one-school
communities. The Pupil Accommodation Review Process must be strengthened so that decisions
better reflect community-wide needs and prioritize student well-being.
Our residents deserve access to health services comparable to those in urban centres. Funding
supports and greater use of public-private partnerships are necessary.
Rural seniors should be able to age in place close to family, friends and community. Smaller homes
located in rural areas face fiscal challenges due to lower bed counts and fixed infrastructure costs.
Enhanced funding supports would enable these homes to remain open.
Provincial efforts to address the opioid crisis by increasing resident access to addiction clinics, frontline
harm reduction workers and to expand the supply of naloxone to first-responders are welcome.
Growing a Rural Voice: Succession Planning for the Future
Rural municipal employees are entering their silver years. Over the next decade 50% of municipal
public servants in Ontario will be eligible for retirement.
Rural municipal governments must prepare to attract, invest in and adapt to younger talent at both
political and administrative levels to project Ontario’s rural voice into the future.
Our aging workforces also require investment. Productive aging practices will be key to rural
municipal governments moving forward.
Reconciliation in Rural Ontario
Building relationships with the First Nations, and Métis and Indigenous organizations helps to address
common concerns, advance mutual interests and to improve service delivery to indigenous residents.
ROMA will work with AMO to ensure municipal perspectives are reflected in Ontario’s review of
Indigenous Consultation Guidelines.