Minister Steve Clark's Speech at the 2020 Rural Ontario Municipal Association Annual Conference
January 20, 2020 4:10 P.M.
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Thank you, Allan [Thompson, ROMA Chair and Mayor of Caledon].
It's a pleasure to be here with you today.
My parliamentary assistants, Parm Gill and Jim McDonell, have been helping with some of the delegations, and I want to thank them for that ... and for their ongoing support.
I'd also like to thank my Cabinet colleagues who are here ... and for taking part in so many delegations.
This is an important opportunity for us to stay connected with you.
The advice and input we receive here — and from ROMA and AMO throughout the year — is invaluable.
So, thank you for the ongoing conversations and the new ideas ...
And for helping to keep the concerns and daily realities of Ontario's rural communities top of mind.
In November, we released our Fall Economic Statement.
In it, my colleague, Rod Phillips, our Minister of Finance, outlined our plan to Build Ontario Together by...
Connecting people to places ... building healthier, safer communities ... making life more affordable ... preparing people for jobs ... creating a more competitive business climate ... and making government services smarter.
Those are our government's priorities, and things I know we can all support.
When it comes to turning government plans into reality, you know better than anyone that municipalities play a key role because you are at the front lines serving people in communities across Ontario.
To help, we announced 2020 Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund allocations earlier than ever — in time for your budget cycle.
And earlier today, Minister Phillips announced we will maintain the $500-million funding envelope for 2021.
Last March, we announced $200 million to help Ontario's 405 small and rural municipalities improve local service delivery and find efficiencies.
I remember what it's like to work for a small municipality — you have great ideas, but they can be challenging to implement without some help. Your capacity can be limited.
So, we provided that funding to help turn your ideas into reality. And there are already great examples across the province.
For example, the Township of Warwick used their modernization funding to install a new system at their arena so they can use tap-temperature water to make and maintain ice — instead of hot water.
By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving on energy, this means the system will pay for itself in four years.
Results like these are fantastic — and I'd like to encourage all of you to make sure the modernization funding you received is put to good use.
And because we know municipalities are important partners...
... in October, we expanded both the Audit and Accountability Fund for large municipalities and the Municipal Modernization Program for smaller ones.
In fact, since ROMA last January, we have announced $350 million in new money to help municipalities find efficiencies, reduce costs and improve services.
This includes an extra $125 million for Ontario's small and rural municipalities.
This time, the funding is application-based and will help you conduct new service delivery reviews ... implement recommendations ... and undertake projects that will help you operate effectively and better serve your residents.
Our government is investing in local governments so that you can better serve your communities and keep taxes low.
Some of you are already taking up the challenge — we received more than 300 projects in this first intake — including 27 joint projects.
Today I am pleased to announce that, as a first step, all 27 of the joint projects will receive funding.
We will invest up to $2.6 million so more than 130 small and rural municipalities can begin working together — immediately — to conduct service delivery reviews, find efficiencies and lower costs.
I'm excited to see collaboration between municipalities and I look forward to seeing these joint projects get underway and produce results as soon as possible.
As you know, the financial situation our government inherited was a real challenge.
But investing in our municipal partners is a key priority for us...
And, I'm calling on you to demonstrate results ... and make sure every dollar counts.
Another key challenge smaller and rural communities face is Connecting People to Places.
And we want to help to address that concern.
To date, Ontario has nominated more than 350 projects to the federal government worth $480 million in provincial funding for rural, northern, and public transit infrastructure projects under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
And through Connecting Links we're providing another $30 million this year to help repair or rebuild municipal roads and bridges.
We're covering up to 90 per cent of the costs — and successful applicants for the next round will be announced in the spring.
We're also working with you to Build Healthier, Safer Rural Communities.
Last fall — in response to requests from municipal officials and service organizations — we helped clear the way for the construction of what will be one of the largest retirement and long-term care facilities in Simcoe County ... by issuing a Minister's Zoning Order to streamline the development.
It will give hundreds of seniors in Barrie and Innisfil a safe, healthy and affordable place to live ... and provide 200 full-time jobs.
And in Clarington — at the request of long-term care advocates and community leaders — and with the help of an MZO, we cut an estimated three years from the approval process for a long-term care facility.
It will be home to more than 220 people and employ 450 full- and part-time staff.
I remain committed to helping municipalities expedite important projects like these.
We're also taking steps to help municipalities build back better through a $1-million pilot project under the Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program...
... this will help eligible municipalities rebuild flood damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure to a higher standard, so it can better withstand extreme weather.
From day one, we've been committed to Making Life More Affordable for Ontarians.
By making it quicker and easier for municipalities to unlock development, it will be easier for people to find homes that meet their needs and their budgets.
Last fall, my ministry completed a consultation on the Provincial Policy Statement.
As you know, it sets the ground rules for land use planning in the province.
We heard we need to make it easier to expand settlement area boundaries to reflect local needs.
Rural areas told us we need to support residential development.
And from the agricultural sector, we heard that converting farm buildings into housing supports local economies, increases housing supply and helps farmers.
I want you to know that the changes we made through Bill 108 to permit additional residential units on urban and suburban properties also applies on rural properties, including farms. The updated PPS will support this change.
We are taking a careful look at the feedback we heard through the consultation, and I hope to release the new PPS this winter.
Of course, the PPS is an important part of More Homes, More Choice — our housing supply action plan.
We're following through on that plan, and we've issued four guides to support innovation in housing — they cover tiny homes, second suites, co-ownership and life leases.
We know we need to make it easier to build different types of housing to ensure people have a range of options that meet their needs — and our guides help do that.
Since we last met at ROMA, we also released A Place to Grow... the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
It recognizes that one size doesn't fit all ... and our plan is already helping rural municipalities.
For example, the City of Kawartha Lakes and many other counties in the Greater Golden Horseshoe have new intensification and density targets that better reflect the amount of growth expected in their communities.
This brings me to our commitment to Creating a More Competitive Business Environment ... one where entrepreneurs and risk-takers are supported, so businesses can grow and create good jobs for the people of Ontario.
Last fall, I issued a Minister's Zoning Order in Oro-Medonte...
... to unlock vacant industrial land and cut red tape that was holding up an Automotive Innovation Park. This will create 700 new full-time jobs, plus 1,800 construction jobs to build the facility.
And I'm calling on all municipalities to bring forward other opportunities like that across the province.
As you know, we will be holding a series of roundtable discussions with rural stakeholders on economic development challenges and opportunities, and what we can do to help you succeed.
And we're investing $315 million over five years to expand broadband and cellular access.
This will leverage funding from the private sector and other levels of government to result in access for up to 220,000 households and businesses across Ontario.
We're also launching the next intake of our Regional Economic Development program to support business growth in eastern and southwestern Ontario.
Meanwhile, I know you are working hard and going after new businesses and investment, too.
Just like the Town of Halton Hills did.
It used its modernization funding to set up a business concierge approach to help investors and entrepreneurs, and to implement an economic development and tourism strategy ... and a strategy to attract foreign direct investment.
This is a great way to leverage our funding to build prosperity and a stronger local economy for the future.
One of the most important things all levels of government must do is get spending under control.
We need to transform how we work by Making Government Services Smarter.
I want to thank my parliamentary assistant Jim McDonell — and his counterpart Jane McKenna from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development...
They recently completed a Regional Listening Tour to hear your perspectives.
There are some fantastic ideas out there... Including when it comes to the great Canadian sport of hockey!
The Township of Lanark Highlands is updating its website so people can book the arena online, saving staff time and making the system more efficient for its residents.
And the Municipality of Charlton and Dack, and the Township of Chamberlain used their modernization funding to consolidate their offices.
Now they share space, equipment and an IT server. And they didn't stop there. They're renting out the unused Chamberlain office to create revenue.
These are just a few of the ways you are working smarter and I encourage you to keep up the good work.
I'm proud of what you are doing to make life more affordable ... strengthen your communities ... find efficiencies ... and deliver smarter, modern services.
This is hard work. But our government will keep working with ROMA — and AMO — to help.
We want to support your great ideas ...
See growth and prosperity in rural and northern Ontario ...
And help your residents and municipalities thrive.
That's how we will Build Rural Ontario Together!
Office of the Honourable Steve Clark