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Minister Steve Clark's Speech at the Association of Ontario Municipalities 2019 Conference

Speech

Minister Steve Clark's Speech at the Association of Ontario Municipalities 2019 Conference

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

OTTAWA — Today, Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, delivered the following remarks to delegates at the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario:

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Good afternoon everyone. It's great to be here ...

I love the energy of the AMO conference. Delegations are in full swing — almost 900 requests this year — another record-breaker!

And I understand this is Pat Vanini's last AMO conference ... I've known Pat for many years and she has always been a tireless voice for municipalities across the province.

And during my first year as minister, Pat — along with Lynn Dollin and Jamie McGarvey — gave me and my Cabinet colleagues great advice on how we can work together with all of you.

Please join me in thanking Pat for everything she's done over many years to support Ontario's municipalities.

I'd also like to acknowledge my parliamentary assistant for municipal affairs — Jim McDonell. And I'm pleased to introduce Parm Gill, who is my new parliamentary assistant for housing.

It's great to be here with so many of my Cabinet colleagues. Several of them were here last August! And there are some new faces, too.

We are here to listen to your ideas and concerns. To learn from you. And to answer your questions.

Last August I told you that serving as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was my dream job and after a full year — I can tell you, that it still is!

As a former mayor and CAO, I understand the challenges and opportunities you face. And as a former AMO president, I know how important the association is to its members and to government.

Over the last year, of course, I've learned a lot. Including about AMO, Ontario's 444 municipalities and how important it is that we continue to talk, listen and work together.

Things have been moving fast ... but maintaining a strong relationship with AMO and all our municipal partners continues to be a top priority.

On this stage last year, Lynn Dollin and I signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). That was a proud moment.

But more important than any piece of paper, is that under that MOU, the province has had 11 AMO MOU meetings since then.

Our government takes these meetings seriously. Seventeen Cabinet Ministers and six Parliamentary Assistants have come to the AMO MOU meetings — some of them more than once. And the government has brought 53 agenda items for consultation to that table.

These discussions are confidential, but it's no secret that some of them have been frank — and I think that's a good thing. So, I want to thank the AMO Executive for their hard work and input.

In addition to the AMO MOU table, we're consulting with AMO and its members on a whole host of topics.

For example, my ministry recently launched 140 days of consultation planned for this calendar year on changes to the Planning Act related to community benefits charges.

We want the funds that municipalities recover from community benefits charges to be similar to what they've collected from development charges for discounted services, density bonusing and parkland dedication.

To be clear — our goal is to maintain municipal revenues.

We launched a technical working group on community benefits charges that has already met twice, and we've posted information on the Environmental Registry of Ontario — so I would encourage you to give us your feedback through our consultation.

I'm committed to ensuring that growth pays for growth.

And I understand how important it is for municipalities to have the resources they need to support complete communities — such as parks, daycares and more.

The Premier was here yesterday, as you know, and his remarks and discussion at the recent AMO MOU table is a strong signal that our government is listening and wants to work in collaboration with our municipal partners.

We have a plan to modernize programs to make them more sustainable.

We heard your concerns about the changes to the cost-sharing arrangements — and as the Premier announced — we will be providing you with transitional funding for public health and childcare for your budgeting process in 2020.

As Minister Elliott said yesterday, future changes will build in protections for municipal budgets.

All municipal budgets.

On January 1, 2020, we'll transition municipalities to a 70-30 cost-sharing funding model.

That's 70 for the province, and 30 for municipalities.

And, in the first year, we're going to ensure that no public health unit experiences an increase above 10 per cent of current public health costs.

That's the protection we've built in to ease the transition.

Some municipalities already contribute 30 per cent or more — these municipalities will not be impacted.

We will also be maintaining in-year cost sharing for land ambulances.

In fact, Ontario will not be reducing funding to land ambulance services. Municipalities will receive an average of nearly four per cent more in funding for the 2019 calendar year and will see an increase in 2020.

I'd like to thank my colleague Stephen Lecce for working tirelessly and advocating on your behalf since becoming the Minister of Education.

Child care funding will now be phased in over a three-year period starting in January 2020 — with the changes our partners have advised us will require the most lead time coming into effect last.

We will continue to encourage municipalities to partner with us to support children and families in our communities, but we will also adjust the approach to cost sharing Expansion Plan operating funding ... by committing to provide 80 percent of this funding regardless of the municipal contribution.

All of this will give you more time to plan and find savings and efficiencies before the adjustments come into effect.

Because of this approach, the government will be reinvesting $85.5 million back into child care for 2020, and $36.5 million for 2021.

And as you may have heard in Minister Elliott's plenary yesterday, our government will also launch renewed consultation with municipalities and our partners in public health and emergency health services this fall.

This will be in addition to the work that's being done at already-established technical tables.

Through this consultation process, we will ensure that enough time is provided for thoughtful dialogue and implementation planning.

This next phase of engagement will be supported by an expert advisor. Over the next few weeks, the Ministry of Health will work with this advisor, with input from AMO, to begin a consultation process that will continue through the fall.

It's no secret that our government moved quickly when we came into office, but we have listened, and we are committed to working in collaboration with municipalities as we modernize services.

Municipalities are critical partners to our government, and we will work with you to ensure that the transformation of programs and services is informed by your advice and daily realities.

Last year, I mentioned five priorities to you, and I'd like to take a few minutes now to highlight some of the progress we've made by working together.

Let's start with cutting red tape.

This is about getting rid of the duplication and unnecessary steps that stand in the way of building housing, creating jobs and helping you serve your residents in a cost-effective way.

The Premier provided some great examples yesterday, so I won't repeat them.

But, I will add that my ministry is also leading a cross-government review of the development approvals process.

We've been working with municipal planners, building officials, developers and housing providers to identify every step in the development process. And — guess what — it's full of duplication and delays.

We're going to tackle this, with the help of all our partners — including many of you in the room.

Last year, I committed to make a serious dent in the reporting burden municipalities face.

As the Premier said yesterday, we've already identified 94 reports to be eliminated — and consolidated and simplified 27 others. This is good news.

When it comes to arbitration reform, we took some important steps last fall ...

After years of inaction, we amended the interest arbitration process under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act.

We listened when you told us the process in the fire sector led to delays and inefficiencies.

My colleague Monte McNaughton and I are interested in hearing more about how we can further help municipalities with these challenges.

So, we've asked our Parliamentary Assistants to lead an engagement with you this fall.

This will give municipalities an opportunity to provide input on how we can support them in controlling costs.

Here are a few more of the actions we're taking to support you.

Earlier this spring, I announced that we are funding a new $1 million Disaster Assistance pilot project, which will provide eligible communities with up to 15 per cent above the estimated cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather.

By building back better, municipalities will also be able to save money over the long-term.

And last week, I joined my colleague Jeff Yurek to announce we're transitioning the cost of the Blue Box program away from municipal taxpayers to make the producers of products and packaging fully responsible, so municipalities can put those funds to better use.

We listened when you told us about the importance of double-hat professional firefighters — and we responded.

We listened when it comes to wastewater capital costs — they will remain 100-per-cent recoverable through development charges.

And I am pleased to share that we're not making any changes to Ontario Works program delivery funding levels in 2020. They will be held at 2018 levels, but we will continue with the transformation of employment services.

Also, for 2020, as the Premier announced, we will be maintaining the current structure of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund for an additional year.

And we're going to announce allocations well in advance of the municipal budget year.

And last week, we provided municipalities with the remaining $6.74 million to help with cannabis legalization costs.

At last year's conference, I announced we would be reviewing the regional government system. It's been in place for almost 50 years — and we wanted local input on how to improve governance, decision-making and service delivery.

I've been unequivocal from day one and stated throughout the review — we have no preconceived outcomes.

Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn are finalizing their recommendations — over 8,500 submissions and close to 100 in-person presentations were received — an overwhelming response — and I look forward to receiving their report.

I'll have more to say this fall. For now, I want to thank everyone who participated.

In recent weeks, I've had a chance to get out and announce some of the funding we're providing for supportive and affordable housing.

I'm really proud we're investing $1 billion in 2019-20 to repair and grow our community housing system.

We took some early steps this year to set up the system for success, and we're simplifying the way rent is calculated.

From homelessness, to supportive housing — we need a sustainable community housing system that's ready to help those who need it most. And there is lots of work to do.

One of the highlights of the last year for me was our More Homes, More Choice Act.

Our plan means ...

A better mix of housing, more housing near transit, and more rental housing.

At the end of the day, our plan is about building the right types of homes in the right places — at a price people can afford ...

Not just in Toronto, or here in Ottawa ... but in every community, right across our province.

The last year has been extremely busy, and I've only touched on a few of the highlights today.

We've done a lot together, and we've had many conversations. We've debated ... agreed ... and agreed to disagree.

As our government tackles the big challenges ahead, the lines of communication will stay open. We'll keep talking ... and listening.

It's a privilege to serve as the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and I understand the vital role municipalities play in the lives of people right across the province.

I know there is no more important partner for our government than the people in this room — our municipal partners who are on the front lines in communities across Ontario.

I'm committed to working with you and bringing your issues and concerns to the Cabinet table.

Thank you very much.

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