For immediate release: Friday, March 26, 2010
ONTARIO BUDGET A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) is calling the 2010 Ontario Budget a step in the right direction for Northwestern Ontario communities but acknowledges that there are some areas of concern.
“The budget provides some heartening signals to municipal leaders that the Government is finally listening to the voices of Northerners,” said NOMA President Anne Krassilowsky. “We are encouraged that the Budget acknowledges the long-term economic downturn that Northwestern Ontario communities are struggling with, while also recognizing the need to support the opportunities of the Ring of Fire mineral deposit.”
The budget proposes a three-year Northern Industrial Electricity Rate Program of approximately $150 million per year to provide a two cent per kilowatt-hour rebate to eligible industrial facilities. “We are hopeful that this rebate program will improve cost competitiveness for large energy users and encourage investment in our region. It is vital that the program is efficient and easily accessible for industry,” commented Krassilowsky.
In addition, the Budget establishes a Ring of Fire Coordinator to work with Aboriginal Peoples, northern Ontarians and mining companies to encourage responsible and sustainable economic development related to the Ring of Fire. However, the Budget also reaffirms the intention of the government to proceed with the implementation of the Far North Act. Krassilowsky remarked, “NOMA has been clear in expressing our view that the uncertaintycreated by the Far North Act is a hindrance to business investment and economic growth in Northern Ontario and we will continue to advocate against this legislation.”
The Budget makes a number of commitments that impact Northern Ontario municipal governments and families, including:
• Permanently increasing child care funding for existing spaces by $63.5 million annually to make up for the loss of federal government funding;
• Increasing the basic adult needs and shelter allowances for Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works recipients by one per cent. This will impact municipalities by increasing the municipal portion of this $57 million program increase beginning January 2011;
• A Northern Ontario Energy Credit – up to $200/yr for a family;
• Discontinuation of the Ontario Bus Replacement Program and include bus replacement as eligible expenses under the Provincial Gas Tax Program-one time funding of $174 million in 2009-10 will be provided to cover current municipal commitments under the Ontario Bus Replacement Program; and
• Enhanced property tax relief for low to middle-income earners (more details are being sought).