Council Column – March

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The past week has seen an increase in the temperature across the area, and most of the snow has melted.

The heat has also been turned up on the Provincial political stage as well, with the PC leadership race well underway, and the other parties vying for their own share of the media.  The emails, text messages, phone calls and social media barrage from each of the parties has already begun, with one common theme: “Can we count on your support?”

To each, I’ve asked the same: “Can we count on your support?”  That is, if your party is elected to form the next Provincial Government, what are you going to do to support Rural Ontario?

I have yet to receive a response to any of my emails or text messages from any parties.  When I have received phone calls, I’m politely told that I will receive another phone call back from their party leader or prospective party leader.

On Twitter and Facebook, I have asked the simple question of each of the prospective new Premier’s: “As the next Premier, what will you be doing for Rural Ontario?”

Here are some of the topics that are of concern to Rural Ontario, and the Township of Cavan Monaghan in the next Provincial Election.

  • There are proposed changes to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act (FPPA) that carry with them the potential for significant municipal budgetary increases. The new proposed regulations included input from the Fire Safety Technical Table, which lacked adequate rural representation.  Several required items within the proposal, aren’t attainable on rural volunteer fire departments.  Required response times as set forth in the proposed legislation are not achievable with our current volunteer fire department, and would require the hiring of full time suppression staff.  Rural Ontario requires representation on changes to the FPPA, and funding to implement those significant changes.
  • For every litre of gasoline sold, Ontario currently provides two cents to 99 municipalities that have public transit services. There are 444 municipalities in Ontario.  Cavan Monaghan, along with 344 other Rural Ontario municipalities do not receive any Provincial Gas tax dollars.  Beginning in 2019, the municipal share of gas tax funds will increase up to four cents per litre by 2021-2022.  Since 2004, $3.7 billion from Provincial Gas Taxes has been committed to mostly urban centres.  Cavan Monaghan hasn’t received any provincial gas dollars, yet we, along with all the other rural municipalities in Ontario have significant infrastructure deficits in financing our existing roads and bridges.  Rural Ontario deserves its share of Provincial Gas Taxes, as we all pay it at the pumps.
  • There needs to be a long term plan and funding for the viability and sustainability of Harness Racing. The cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks program, and the reduction of race dates at Kawartha Downs from 104 to 18 have devastated local harness racing.  Kawartha Downs has indicated that they require a minimum of 40 race dates to be viable.
  • The high costs of electricity have had a huge impact on citizens and business across the province. Rural Ontario has been hit exceptionally hard because of the increased delivery charges in addition to the global adjustment charges.  Despite claims of 25% reductions on electricity bills, Township properties do not qualify.  A sample electricity bill from the current Millbrook Arena showed electricity charges of $846, representing 7% of our $11,000 total bill.  Rural Ontario deserves fair fees across the province.
  • The Province has recently implemented new Agriculture and Natural Heritage Systems for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The Township provided comments for consideration in October 2017, but none of those comments were reflected in the new legislation.  This new legislation needs to be completely reviewed and overhauled.  The quality of the mapping that was incorporated in the Provincial maps lacks details and is inaccurate, which will require property owners proposing severances or zoning changes to undertake a large range of additional studies that may not have been previously required.  In addition, there are opportunities within our employment areas for new businesses that may no longer qualify.  The stagnation of lands across the Township, and rural lands within the Greater Golden Horseshoe will have significant impacts to economic development and the future property tax base within the Township.  There are subdivisions that had qualified under all the previous legislation and Township Official Plans, which no longer qualify.  The Township and County of Peterborough will now be required to undertake several  studies including Land Needs Assessment, Housing Strategy, Employment Strategy, Intensification Strategy, and Watershed Planning, with no funding available from the Province to meet these requirements.  This will be costly.

Things will certainly continue to heat up as the Provincial Election unfolds this spring.  A balance of mutual respect for the needs of both Urban and Rural municipalities must to be struck.  This will ensure that the entire Province of Ontario can prosper in the years ahead.

By Mayor Scott McFadden

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