Housing and finance key issues as local leaders prepare to meet Ontario ministers | Canadian

Delegates from across Ontario began descending on London, Ont., Sunday as Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet prepared to meet municipal officials for days of detailed, local discussions.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference is being held in London from Aug. 20 to 23, with local financial headaches and housing targets top of mind. Officials from towns and cities will have the opportunity to lobby, cajole and grill cabinet ministers on their priorities during the event.

For a few days, the decision-makers at council tables around Ontario — along with both opposition and government figures from Queen’s Park — will take part in hundreds of meetings.

Housing is set to be a key priority for both provincial and municipal figures during the conference.

The Ford government is in the midst of an aggressive drive to build 1.5 million homes by 2031, assigning targets to cities to hit that goal. A decision in 2022 to swap land out of the Greenbelt was also made under the umbrella of new housing.

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Speaking as the AMO conference kicked off at an event organized by Ontario’s Big City Mayors, Burlington mayor Marianne Meed Ward said the aim of discussions over the next few days would be collaboration.

“Only by coming together are we able to find solutions together because no one level of government is responsible for how we got here, and no one level of government will be able to get us out,” Meed Ward, who also chairs the Big City Mayors, said.

“We have a very good relationship.”

She said the group will be “laser-focused” on housing, health, mental health and homelessness in their conversations with the province.

Cities in Ontario are also asking the province to reconsider how it funds services they deliver, and the funds cities are able to raise.

“As they say, the federal government has all the power, the province has all the money and the municipalities have all the problems — and we can’t solve them with nine cents on the dollar of taxes,” Meed Ward said.

She was joined by Toronto’s deputy mayor, Jennifer McKelvie, who said cities could not tax their way back out of deficits, arguing, “the revenue tools currently available… will not fill the void alone.”

She called for a new fiscal framework — asking for new revenue tools that “grow with the economy.”

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The City of Toronto suspended its membership of AMO in 2004 but is a member of the Big City Mayors.


Click to play video: 'Kingston Mayor on AMO Conference'


Kingston Mayor on AMO Conference


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