Ontario’s Big City Mayors support all-of-government approach to affordable housing, and continued pandemic financial support for municipalities

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) met last week to discuss a variety of issues including the upcoming Provincial-Municipal Housing Summit and continuing provincial financial support throughout 2022 for municipalities across Ontario, including Kitchener.  The meeting included a fulsome discussion with Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy on a variety of issues top of mind with Ontario’s Big City Mayors.

“For the past 20 months, all orders of government have been working together to ensure our residents and businesses are supported during the pandemic,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “As vaccination rates continue to increase and we learn more about the omicron variant, the next several months will be critical for economic recovery, and we need to make sure we get it right.  While public transit has been the focus of financial support, and we are grateful for that assistance, there are other areas within cities experiencing shortfalls, like arenas, facility rentals and bylaw enforcement to name a few, that need financial support from other orders of government.  That means continuing the strong partnership we’ve seen over the last 20+ months between the Federal government, Provincial government and municipalities.”

Housing affordability has emerged as a top priority for so many residents in Kitchener and across Ontario.  Cities and towns, big and small, urban and rural, and from Northern Ontario to Southern Ontario are experiencing significant increases in housing prices, with no end in sight.

“Housing affordability is impacting so many people in Kitchener and across the province.  While finding efficiencies in municipal approval processes, such as those enacted by the City of Kitchener, is a part of the solution, all orders of government need to work together towards creating affordable housing for all.  From supportive housing to affordable home ownership, we need solutions to include fiscal levers and other policy options that are available at the federal and provincial orders of government, so that we can slowdown the commodification of houses that people so desperately need,” said Mayor Vrbanovic.

OBCM Mayors also discussed the importance of healthcare and hospitals to our communities, including supports needed for mental health and addictions as we come out of the pandemic, all of which will only become more important in the future due to our growing and aging population. 

“Investments in healthcare will be critical in the years to come,” said Mayor Vrbanovic. “However, using property taxes to help pay for people-focused services ranging from social services to new hospital builds, will simply be a struggle for residents, businesses and many municipalities across Ontario.  Property taxes were never designed for supporting health-focused infrastructure, and municipalities simply don’t have capacity in our budgets without negatively impacting property taxes or the services we provide.” 

Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM, https://www.ontariobigcitymayors.ca/) is comprised of mayors of Ontario cities with populations of 100,000 or more. OBCM provides a voice for big city mayors in policy debates that impact Ontario cities. Through policy development, advocacy, discussion and partnerships, Ontario’s Big City Mayors support strong and effective cities.

OBCM media release: https://www.ontariobigcitymayors.ca/news/

Municipal Fiscal Support – COVID-19 Impacts

Approved Motion:

Ontario’s Big City Mayors call on the provincial and federal governments to provide continued support to municipalities throughout the 2022 fiscal year to help the province recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and stimulate our local economies. The continuation of the Safe Restart Agreement is essential to keep municipalities whole. Municipalities have been at the forefront of supporting local communities throughout the crisis and municipal services are key to economic growth. It is imperative that municipalities across Ontario continue to receive federal and provincial funding to cover the significant additional costs and loss of revenues.

For more information, please contact:

Paul Grivicic, Chief of Staff
City of Kitchener

Bethany Rowland, Director of Corporate Communications & Marketing
City of Kitchener