For Immediate Release

May 13, 2020

GTHA Mayors and Chairs urge provincial and federal action to support municipalities

“Municipalities are on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19 and will lead the economic restart and recovery.

The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area helped drive the economic prosperity that Ontario and Canada enjoyed before the pandemic and a strong economic recovery here is crucial to both the province and the country’s success in the post-COVID world.

That is why the Mayors and Chairs of the GTHA municipalities have gathered again to call for action. It is critical and urgent for the provincial and federal governments to take action now to address the dire financial problems being faced by GTHA municipalities.

We appreciate the urgent and necessary action provincial and federal governments have taken to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, in particular through providing direct financial support to individuals and groups across the board, including renters, tenants, small and large businesses, and services to vulnerable populations.

As we look ahead to the restart and recovery phases, now is the time to ensure municipalities are not grappling with financial uncertainty. Given that our principal constitutional and practical relationship is with our provincial government, we are looking for Queen’s Park to immediately initiate substantive discussions with us, with other Ontario municipalities, and with the federal government to take action to alleviate these financial difficulties. Doing nothing for cities is simply not an option.

We have serious problems, they are problems affecting all GTHA municipalities and we simply cannot afford to have constitutional or intergovernmental wrangling standing in the way of these frontline municipal governments getting the help they need now. While addressing these problems should involve a cooperative national effort, it has to start in our case with a willingness to act on the part of our provincial government since as we are frequently reminded, we exist under provincial legislation.

Under that very same legislation, municipalities cannot raise money except generally through property taxes, nor can we slash services that the provincial and federal governments rely on us to deliver to residents. Cutting services in the midst of the pandemic response and recovery or raising taxes would hurt the very same people that the federal and provincial governments have focused on trying to help with various aid programs.

This goes beyond dollars and cents though because the very ability of the province and the country to enjoy as quick and as complete a recovery as possible will largely depend on the ability of cities to deliver that recovery as we must.

Approximately 20 per cent of the entire country’s GDP comes from the Toronto region and if municipalities are financially crippled we will not be able to play our leadership role in this recovery.

A strong recovery will rely on strong GTHA municipalities delivering transit, delivering infrastructure projects, delivering child care, and continuing to deliver the public health response to COVID-19.

We need all governments to be united in supporting municipalities as quickly as possible. Achieving this goal will begin with the Government of Ontario committing itself to providing assistance to the province’s municipalities and initiating discussions with us and with the Government of Canada.”