Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) would like to thank the leader of the Ontario NDP, Andrea Horwath, for providing the below respones to our survey.
OBCM met with the leaders of the Ontario PC Party, the Ontario NDP, the Ontario Liberal Party and the Green Party of Ontario earlier this month, and as a follow up to those discussions, requested responses a survey of questions on key municipal priorities. The NDP responded to our questions with the following:
Ontario is in the midst of a Housing Crisis. The need for a collaborative “all-government approach” has become apparent, no one level of government can solve the problem on its own. Municipalities play a large role in the development of new housing supply and believe that unilateral actions, absent municipal input, may have unintended consequences that slow down development and reduce the community support needed to continue to sustainably add housing in our communities. OBCM members are supportive of a number of initiatives that are grounded in the following principals:
- Ensure that every level of government is part of addressing the solution;
- Improve the way we collect and analyze data so we have the tools to define problems, setgoals, and track progress on implementing solutions;
- Reduce the time for approvals by applying digital tools and streamlining the process;
- Invest in training to ensure we have the skilled trades needed to build new homes;
- Develop a suite of tools to address housing costs and supply shortages;
- Ensure local flexibility in building the right mix of housing; and
- Share in communicating to residents the need for growth to help overcome NIMBY opposition.
- Can you please outline how your Party plans to address the Housing Crisis?
- How does your Party’s plan align with the abovementioned principles?
- The number of individuals and families who are at-risk of and experiencing homelessness in our communities continue to increase at a rapid rate. How does your Housing plan address the needs of our must vulnerable residents?New Democrats have released an ambitious housing plan that not only tackles the housing crisis by addressing the cost of rent and housing but also builds affordable and supportive housing for Ontarians. We want to cooperate with local municipalities and other parties to ensure stable supply of various housing options to satisfy the needs of our growing population. Rigid zoning ordinances and labour shortages have long-strained Ontario’s already inadequate housing supply, we will invest in our people and their skills to make sure that an Ontario NDP government will succeed in making Ontario an affordable place to live and grow. You can read the full plan here, but please find a few highlights below:
• Build 60,000 supportive housing units for people experience mental health and addiction challenges
• Extend the lifespan of 260,000 units of social housing by providing funding for capital repairs
• Get 1.5 million homes built province-wide over the next decade, and establish a new public housing agency, Housing Ontario, to finance and build 250,000 affordable and non-market homes.
• Create a portable housing benefit, saving 311,000 households an average of $300/month on rent
• Recommit to the goal of ending chronic homelessness within 10 years
• Expand the Housing First model
• Bring back real rent control
• End exclusionary zoning
• Support a For Indigenous, By Indigenous housing strategy
Mental Health and Addictions
Ontario’s Big City Mayors recently released a Mental Health and Addictions Policy Paper that addresses the clear need for action now (https://www.ontariobigcitymayors.ca/news/details.php?id=747). While the provincial government is responsible for funding and coordinating mental health and addictions supports, all levels of government have a role to play in improving services for our residents. Without a comprehensive mental health regime, Ontario municipalities will continue to face increased emergency service costs that put pressure on first responders and other front line community services.
- Has your party committed to fully funding the province’s Roadmap to Wellness plan? Or will you be releasing a fully costed plan that addresses Mental Health and Addictions?
- Does your Party support mandating Mental Health Crisis Response Teams across the province, which have been shown to have significant outcome improvements for residents, with the necessary funding to ensure their success?
- OBCM has been encouraging the federal government to decriminalize the possession of certain controlled substances. The criminalization of mental health and addictions exacerbates the challenges our communities face, and we believe that often a public health response rather than enforcement response is what is needed in our communities to succeed. Does your Party support our call for decriminalization?We have released a costed plan to offer universal basic mental healthcare in Ontario. We will expand access to publicly funded and delivered counselling and therapy services across the province.
We will immediately invest $10 million more into mobile crisis services and $7 million more for safe bed programs to support mobile crisis teams. We will work towards establishing 24-hour civilian community mobile teams across the province to operate in partnership with Mobile Crisis Response Teams and respond to low-risk crisis situations.
We support calls for decriminalization addictions and declare the overdose and drug poisoning crisis a public health emergency
Ontario is a leader in emission reductions. The province and municipalities are well placed to transition to net-zero and many cities have developed plans to get there but need the support of both the federal and provincial governments to deliver on this critical priority. As we move deeper into decarbonization, a shared approach to reducing emissions in sectors such as building, energy, and transportation, will be essential. OBCM is in the process of creating a Climate Change Policy Paper that will be released later this summer.
- How does your Party’s plan to address Climate Change address key municipal priority areas, including buildings, energy, transportation, waste, and adaptation?
- Municipalities often feel the effects of Climate Change before anyone else does, and as the on-the-ground delivery agent for the change required to support the road to net-zero, what involvement will municipalities have in the development and implementation of your Climate Change plans?In 2021, the Ontario NDP released its Green New Democratic Deal, which we believe is the boldest, most effective — and achievable —climate plan Ontario’s ever had. Our plan includes a world-leading building retrofit program that will add more than $15.2 billion to our annual GDP and create about 100,000 good jobs. Buildings in the broader public sector will be retrofitted to achieve net-zero by 2030, and privately-owned buildings in the Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional sector will be retrofitted to achieve net-zero by 2050.
The GNDD also proposes stronger energy efficiency standards for new buildings under the Building Code, such that all newly-built public, residential and commercial buildings shall be net-zero by 2030. Municipalities play an integral role in making sure that the province can reach those ambitious goals. Ontario’s New Democrats seek to partner with municipal governments to ensure smooth delivery of zero-emission transit, upgrades to public and private buildings and implementation of our active transportation strategy.
Collaboration with Municipalities
As delivery agents for many provincial initiatives, we believe actively involving municipalities in program design would help deliver these programs more efficiently and effectively. Often, by the time a municipality has details of a program, it is in the final stages of creation.
- What does your Party see as the role of municipalities in this process?Ontario’s big cities need a partner at Queen’s Park, not a bully. They deserve a partner committed to a collaborative, “no-surprises” approach, where municipalities participate in policy-making decisions affecting municipal government, instead of being forced to continually adjust to unilateral provincial decisions presented as done deals — decisions that often turn out to be deeply flawed with huge unintended consequences that proper consultation would have revealed.
Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP respect local democracy and the decisions of local councils, mayors and residents. An Ontario NDP government will make sure municipalities get the support they need and the kind of transparent partnership they deserve.
This includes a New Deal for municipalities, with increased federal and provincial funding for essential municipal services and infrastructure, so municipalities can emerge from the pandemic stronger than they were before the pandemic. We cannot return to the old bad “normal” of underfunded municipal services.
An Ontario NDP government will also look for new ways to strengthen municipal decision-making, including city charters, and recognize and support municipal governments’ legitimate powers
Municipal Operating Budgets
Building on Question #4 – often funding is announced to support new infrastructure projects and other critical services, however not factored in are the operating and maintenance (O&M) costs that the municipality is left to cover. While grateful for these funding opportunities, it is often a struggle to budget for current O&M costs, let alone new costs that will be incurred – and when in the midst of recovery from COVID-19, it is nearly impossible.
- How will your party support municipalities and their operating budgets both as we continue to recover from the pandemic, and as more infrastructure is being built in our cities (community buildings, transit, etc.) leaving municipalities with rapidly increasing operating and maintenance costs?Successive Ontario’s governments have been downloading provincial responsibilities on our cities and towns making it hard for them to make ends meet. From sustaining healthcare to operating expensive new transit projects, Ontario governments have been cutting ribbons while leaving municipalities to pay the bills.
An Ontario NDP government will end this nefarious practice of downloading. The NDP will work in partnership with municipalities to implement anew deal that respects municipal government and reverses the unfair downloading of provincial cost sand responsibilities to local governments. This means sustainable municipal finances and fair cost-sharing of municipal-provincial priorities like transit, housing, childcare and infrastructure, with predictable and adequate funding that allows municipalities to make long-term plans.
We will restore the provincial share of funding to municipal transit and paratransit to clear and predictable 50 per cent of net operational costs and ensure immediate improvements to transit and paratransit services
Mayor Cam Guthrie, Chair
Michelle Baker, Executive Director