Province rethinks funding cuts to municipalities

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Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff welcomed the news that the provincial government has reversed planned cuts to municipal funding.

“We were still compiling information on the cuts but there was no doubt the cost would have been significant,” he said in a media release. “Council would have been looking at service cuts or tax increases to make up the shortfall.”

Canniff said the municipality had issues with the forced merger of the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit as well as cuts to library services, childcare, housing and conservation authorities.

The cuts were part of sweeping changes made in the provincial budget last month and were made with little or no consultation, municipal officials said.

“We had already approved our budget and since municipalities aren’t allowed to operate with a deficit, we would have been scrambling,” Canniff said.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario had lobbied the province to engage in more consulting before any cuts.

“It would have been unfair to municipalities to simply download costs,” Canniff said. “In the end there is only one taxpayer and passing costs to us doesn’t solve any problems. We’re not denying the province’s financial issues, but we need to be consulted as partners.”

The province will not be providing additional promised gas tax funding which could cost Chatham-Kent $1 million.

“We will await word from the province on word for 2020, but at least we have time for planning,” he said.

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