OBCM Statement on Upcoming Ontario Fall Economic Statement 2023
October 27, 2023
Ontario’s Big City Mayors are looking forward to the release of the 2023 Fall Economic Statement by Minister of Finance, Peter Bethlenfalvy next week. As municipalities head into their 2024 budget cycles, we are hoping to hear updates on policies and programs that address our three key priorities: Housing, Municipal Finance Reform, and our Health and Homelessness Strategy.
Municipalities have been working with the province and partners in the home building process to address the housing crisis in our communities. Municipalities do not build homes but do approve building permits and service new communities. OBCM member municipalities have committed to our housing targets through our housing pledges, and we want to meet these goals to help provide the housing needed for our residents.
In the Fall Economic Statement we would like to hear to hear an update on housing including:
- Details on how municipalities will be made whole from the impacts of Bill 23 so that we can plan accordingly for our 2024 municipal budgets
- Clear timelines and details of the consultation process for the Building Faster Fund eligibility criteria, ensuring that municipalities are only held to account for what we directly control – the approvals process, not what is out of our control such as the pulling of permits or housing starts
- Acknowledgement of the need for shared and consistent housing data and agreed upon definitions
- The creation of an accountability framework for identifying the barriers to building, and a schedule of annual meetings to allow for all partners in the home building process (all three levels of government, developers, builders, labour, the higher education sector, the financial services industry, and not-for-profit groups, utilities) to work together to find solutions for housing delays supported by data
- Details on timing of the Minister of Municipal Affairs’ Affordable Housing Bulletin. This is needed for municipalities to finalize their 2024 budgets
Municipal Finance Reform
This year Ontario’s Big City Mayors have met with several federal and provincial ministers to discuss the need for an overhaul to the current municipal funding system for municipalities and a service delivery review. Municipalities own and manage the majority of Ontario’s public infrastructure including roads, bridges, water systems, transit, buildings and recreational facilities. As we work to meet our housing targets, a key role for the municipality is to service these new homes and communities. We are also providing services outside of our scope such as addressing the homelessness crisis, and providing mental health and addictions supports. This is why municipalities are calling on both levels of government to work together on a new long term, sustainable funding program.
In the Fall Economic Statement we would like to hear to hear an update on municipal finance reform including:
- A commitment from the government that they will work with all municipalities on a new fiscal deal for Ontario’s cities
- A commitment to working with the federal government on a new round of federal-provincial infrastructure funding to support provincial housing targets
Health and Homelessness Strategy
Earlier this year, OBCM adopted our Health and Homelessness Strategy which aims to bring together all levels of government along with local health partners, service providers, emergency services and others to address this unprecedented health crisis. We have met with several provincial Ministers including the Minister of Health and the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to discuss our strategy and have received a lot of positive feedback.
Municipalities were pleased with the province’s increased funding and top-ups to both the Homeless Prevention Program and to Mental Health and Addictions Funding earlier this year, which is already playing a significant role in addressing the needs of our most vulnerable. However, the number of those who need support is rising faster than municipalities can manage, and many cities across the province are also dealing with an increase in refugee and asylum claimants never seen before.
In the Fall Economic Statement we would like to hear to hear an update on health and homelessness including:
- A commitment to adopting some of the proposed actions included in our Health and Homelessness Strategy, especially funding for an innovative pilot program that will see low-barrier, 24/7, community hubs built to meet the needs of each individual municipality.
- A commitment to work with the federal government on a program that provides proper investment and the urgent funding needed for homelessness and refugee support in our communities as we head into another cold winter season