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Ontarios Big City Mayors Meet to Discuss Key Priorities Including Mental Health, Addictions and Homelessness Crisis

Jun 17, 2024Housing, Infrastructure, Mental Health and Addictions, Top Stories

June 17, 2024

CHATHAM-KENT, ON – Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) are calling on all levels of government to take immediate action on homelessness, mental health and addictions. At their meeting in Chatham-Kent, OBCM’s member mayors worked together to update policies and requests of the province related to this crisis and passed a resolution (attached) that focuses on the need for immediate action. Over the years OBCM has met with the provincial government and partnered with key stakeholders to raise the alarm on what has now become a humanitarian crisis impacting our residents. Municipalities not only need more funding and other resources, but we also need to see the province appoint one Minister that will focus on this issue and ask that their first order of business is to create a task force with the appropriate stakeholders to work together to find the solutions that are needed in each of our communities, as there is no one size fits all solution.

“Municipalities have shown what works through innovative programs and partnerships, but we do not have the tools or resources to tackle this crisis alone, and it is only growing and becoming more complex. We need help,” said Marianne Meed Ward, Mayor of Burlington and Chair of Ontario’s Big City Mayors. “OBCM has been asking for the province to step up and tackle this issue head on for years now, it needs to be addressed. We are ready to be partners around the table so we can find the appropriate solutions for those in need.”

At the meeting the mayors also discussed the Building Faster Fund, and the lack of accuracy in the housing data being provided by CMHC for municipalities to become eligible for this funding. They passed a motion (attached) asking for more transparency on the data collection process, as well as to address the current discrepancies so municipalities can receive the funding they deserve. They also passed a motion asking for the province to continue its funding of the Digital Main Street Program to assist small businesses across the province (attached).

About Ontario’s Big City Mayors

Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) is an organization that includes mayors of 29 single and lower-tier cities with a population of 100,000 or more, who collectively represent nearly 70 percent of Ontario’s population. OBCM advocates for issues and policies important to Ontario’s largest cities.

Media Contacts

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward, Chair               Michelle Baker, Executive Director                                              

905-335-7777                                                           647-308-6602

June 14th – Approved Motions 

Motion on Updated OBCM Health and Homelessness Strategy 

Motion Moved By: OBCM’s Executive Team – Mayor Marianne Meed Ward (Chair), Mayor Josh Morgan (Vice-Chair), Mayor Cam Guthrie (Past-Chair), Mayor Bryan Paterson (Treasurer) and Mayor Rob Burton (Secretary)

Whereas in 2022 Ontario’s Big City Mayors called on the province for an emergency meeting to address the chronic homelessness, mental health, safety and addictions crisis overwhelming our communities; and

Whereas OBCM adopted our Health and Homelessness Strategy in February 2023 to offer the province some guidance and solutions on how they can work with municipalities to tackle this crisis; and

Whereas OBCM along with other key stakeholders met with Minister Jones and her staff in April 2023 to present and discuss this strategy; and

Whereas although the province has provided additional funding for mental health, addictions and homelessness programs, the funding does not adequately address the ongoing crisis and financial and social impact on municipalities across the province; and

Whereas there is no provincial lead focused on this crisis leading to unanswered questions, and a lack of support to manage the increasing needs of those who are unhoused 

Therefore, be it resolved that Ontario’s Big City Mayors call on the province to officially make Homelessness a Health Priority

AND that the provincial government acknowledge the Humanitarian Crisis that Ontario is facing as the numbers of unhoused individuals and those suffering with mental health & addictions grows exponentially; 

AND request the provincial government appoint a single ministry and/or Ministerial lead and equip them with the appropriate resources to tackle this crisis;

AND request that the provincial government strike a task force with broad sector representatives including municipalities, healthcare, first responders, community services, the business community and the tourism industry to develop a Made in Ontario Action Plan

AND that OBCM receive the materials provided by the CAO working group along with the previously adopted Health and Homelessness Strategy which includes a request for 24/7 crisis centres, and submit them to the province as part of OBCM’s advocacy work on the Mental Health, Addictions and Homelessness Crisis facing our communities.


Motion on Advocacy for Accurate and Timely Housing Data to Inform Policy and Funding Decisions 

Moved by Mayor Burton, Town of Oakville

Seconded by Deputy Mayor Lee for Mayor Collier, Town of Ajax

WHEREAS the Building Faster Fund (BFF) was established by the Province to incentivize municipalities to meet their housing targets, with funding contingent on achieving specific annual housing starts benchmarks; and 

WHEREAS accurate and timely data on housing starts is critical for municipalities to qualify for BFF funding and for informing provincial policy and funding decisions; and 

WHEREAS discrepancies have been identified between the housing start data reported by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC); and 

WHEREAS municipalities’ internal data shows significant undercounting of housing starts reported by CMHC, highlighting the need for transparency, more accurate data reporting mechanisms and collaboration; and 

WHEREAS due to a CMHC undercount totaling more than 2,350 units, municipalities of Ajax, Cambridge, Clarington and Oakville not qualifying for 2023 BFF funding despite surpassing thresholds of their 2023 housing targets; and 

WHEREAS CMHC has acknowledged the lag and oversight in its data collection methods in correspondence with municipalities but refuses to revise their 2023 housing data; and 

AND WHEREAS inaction by the CMHC has jeopardized $23.3 million in provincial funding for Ontario municipalities. 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Ontario Big City Mayors call on the Federal Government and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to:

  1. Course Correct and Restate the Accurate Housing Start Numbers: Promptly address discrepancies in housing start data and the restatement of 2023 housing start numbers to include overlooked housing starts such as accessory dwellings.
  2. Support Accurate and Timely Data Collection: Implement and modernize measures to ensure housing start data is collected and reported accurately and promptly, minimizing lags and oversights.
  3. Ensure transparency in data collection and reporting processes: CMHC explain its data collection methods, calculations, and enumerator counts, especially concerning housing starts. CMHC to adopt transparent reporting practices, including the public disclosure of any errors in data collection or reporting. This will restore trust and confidence in the integrity of CMHC’s data and reporting
  4. Enhance Coordination with Municipalities: Collaborate closely with municipalities to understand local data collection methods and incorporate municipal data, such as first inspection records, into CMHC’s housing start counts. 
  5. Ensure Municipalities Receive the Funding they have Achieved: Ensure that municipalities receive the provincial funding they are entitled to based on accurate housing start counts, enabling them to support local housing initiatives effectively by providing the restated accurate data to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Ontario’s Big City Mayors call on the Provincial Government to:

  1. Work with municipalities and CMHC to revisit data from the 2023 BFF Program Year and make good on payments to municipalities resulting from faulty data 
  2. Confirm whether housing units created in retirement homes, post-secondary institutions and in transitional housing will be included in its housing supply count. 
  3. Include a breakdown of the categories they use in their Housing Supply Progress Tracker, specifically Accessory Residential Units and Long-Term Care Units.
  4. Consider basing future versions of the Building Faster Fund on permits issued, a metric municipalities are responsible for.


Motion on Support for Continuation of Digital Main Street Funding Mayor

Moved by: Mat Siscoe – St. Catharines and Mayor Darrin Canniff – Chatham-Kent 

Whereas since 2016, the Digital Main Street program across Ontario has supported more than 87,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses by providing no cost support that includes tailored digital strategies, tools, consultations, online education, and training events; and 

Whereas since 2016, the Digital Main Street program across Ontario has supported the creation of more than 3,000 jobs for youth and young adults; and 

Whereas Digital Main Street supports businesses and offers services in all OBCM member municipalities; and 

Whereas the Digital Main Street program has become a synchronous natural extension of the work our local municipalities and Small Business Enterprise Centers (SBECs) do to support small business, and acts harmoniously to provide support in another key area for businesses; and 

Whereas In addition to working with businesses that are just at the start of their digital transformation, the Digital Main Street program offers support to businesses at any stage and within any industry; and 

Whereas this support comes in the form of supporting them with digital transformation, new sales/revenue channels, and leveraging digital tools/technologies at every step of their journey to help their business, as well as ensure they and their clients remain secure and protected in light of the increase in cyber attacks; and 

Whereas, operating funding has been discontinued, impacting the ability to maintain services, eliminating the time spent with business owners on this critical support, time spent in the community working with business owners directly; and 

Whereas the uncertainty of continued funding, makes budgeting and long-term planning difficult; and 

Whereas Digital Main Streets Transfer Payment Agreements with the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, expired on March 31, 2024 

Therefore be it resolved that Ontario Big City Mayors request that the Province continue to fund Digital Main Street in line with the needs of our small businesses across Ontario. 

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