I would like to thank the Mayors and representatives of Municipalities for their input on what they would like to see in the next Federal Budget.
I am pleased to thank Whitewater Region as the host municipality and host Mayor Hal Johnson, for the recent pre-Federal Budget consultation that took place in Cobden. In many municipalities, the Head of Council does not attend County Council. I felt it was important to bring this group together, including the Mayor of Pembroke, as Pembroke is not a Member of County Council. We share many of the same challenges and we can share the same solutions.
Municipalities own over 60% of public infrastructure. They need predictable, long-term funding to meet the needs of their ratepayers. The Mayors clearly told me that they do not want a return to the old system that operated like a lottery with little transparency.
Their advice to the Federal Government is skip the administrative phase of designing a complicated, make-work program for bureaucrats that requires municipalities to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on expensive consultants with no guarantee of funding. Well-run municipalities have asset management plans. They know what needs to be done. Distribute any new infrastructure funds the way the federal gas tax is distributed and trust municipalities to do their job.
In the words of Greater Madawaska Mayor Glenda McKay, “The property tax base in rural areas struggles to maintain basic infrastructure. Increasing those rates will only drive away residents and businesses. Municipalities face a lose-lose proposition; be fiscally responsible, raise taxes significantly and drive people away, or don’t raise taxes enough to fix/replace crumbling infrastructure, have people leave because no one wants to live here and have that drive taxes up for those who stay.
“Unfortunately, recent speeches and announcements from the new Federal government indicate there’s no relief in the foreseeable future. Over the next two years the government’s proposed infrastructure spending for shovel-ready projects is all directed at large urban areas. Small rural communities don’t have social and/or green infrastructure, or transit. What we do have is a huge problem that we can’t tax our way out of.”
In addition to Mayor Hal Johnson, joining me were Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon, who is also Reeve of the Town of Renfrew; Pembroke Mayor Mike LeMay; Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet; Laurentian Valley Mayor Steve Bennett and Reeve Debbie Robinson; Mayor Jane Dumas South Algonquin Township; Mayor Tom Peckett McNabb/Braeside Township; Don Eady, Mayor of Renfrew; Arnprior Mayor David Reid and Reeve Walter Stack; and Mayor Glenda McKay of Greater Madawaska Township.