With municipalities still facing immense financial impacts, due to the crisis, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario is dismayed that in nearly a month the Government of Ontario has yet to respond to the union’s joint letter with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) urging immediate support.
The President of CUPE Ontario, which represents 80,000 municipal employees, Fred Hahn, and the President of AMO, which represents most of the province’s 440 municipal councils, Jamie McGarvey, detailed the dire situation for local governments.
“Today, Ontario’s municipal governments are struggling to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, to help community members get through each new day, and to play their indispensable role in rebuilding our damaged economy,” the letter says. “AMO and CUPE both want to help municipalities to find solutions that protect public service delivery without laying off workers. There is simply no real resolution to this immediate and longer-term financial crisis without material intervention from the other orders of government.”
Detailed proposals made in today’s CUPE-AMO joint letter included to: establish an appropriate cost share arrangement for mandated municipally operated services, such as public health, land ambulance services and public transit; increase funding to the 47 municipal service mangers that deliver critical local services and have relationships with community agencies; and allow Ontario’s municipal governments the ability to have the full range of revenue tools, under the City of Toronto Act, to use after a council deliberation and approval.
“That these are unprecedented times with COVID-19, is exemplified by the fact that AMO and CUPE organizations, representing employers and workers respectively, have written together with a shared call for the provincial government to protect local services and jobs, through increased financial support to struggling municipalities,” said Fred Hahn. “Our cities and towns, our communities need enhanced support today and into the future, to ensure a real recovery from the pandemic.”
Both Mr. Hahn and Mr. McGarvey stressed, allowing municipalities to incur operating debt is not a solution to the financial challenges the crisis imposes.
“CUPE and AMO support the recent initiative by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), asking Ottawa for immediate funding assistance, including for public transit,” said Ann Jenkins, Chair of CUPE’s Ontario’s Municipal Employees Coordinating Committee.
“I’m proud of our members for doing the best they can in these challenging times,” added Jenkins. “And for recognizing that communities will recover when our local governments and the public services they provide are supported. Both the federal and provincial governments have to step up now.”
“Ignoring the crisis in our communities and passing the buck to the Federal government is not leadership,” said Mr. Hahn. “Ontario can’t delay any longer. Take these proposals seriously and support local governments now.”