Many of you may be aware that the Conservative Government has further delayed the opening of business at the Legislative Assembly by “proroguing” (the term used for the official ending of a legislative session) the House until April 19th of this year. The Legislature had been slated to resume sitting on the 19th of March. This delay inhibits our ability as an Opposition to call the government to account for the many pressing issues facing Ontarians today. This includes, of course, the major issues in education, health care, housing and most importantly to us here in Ottawa, municipal affairs (amalgamation, downloading costs, etc...)
Both my colleagues and I remain staunchly opposed to the Harris Government's drastic underfunding for the newly formed City of Ottawa. As most of you will know the new city is on the hook for about half the transition costs arising from amalgamation. This amount is just under $100 million dollars. By contrast, when the provincial government merged the city of Chatham-Kent in south-western Ontario, it paid them roughly double what it cost that new municipality in order to start them out on the right foot.
The legislation to form the new city of Ottawa originated from this provincial government. What's more, the government's own appointed Transition Board promised at least 75% funding for the costs that it would incur. This is in addition to the downloading that was supposed to have been “revenue neutral”- and that has not turned out to be that way. In other words, the municipality is being placed in a position where they may have to increase taxes- while the provincial government brag about being tax-cutters!
This underfunding by the Harris government comes at a critical juncture in Ottawa's history. Not only have we merged into a far larger, unified whole, but also we have major adjustments to make in our infrastructure in order to accommodate the spectacular growth we are experiencing. The province is forcing the City of Ottawa to contemplate holding off on infrastructure projects that are crucial at this time.
This is an unacceptable position in which to place the new City of Ottawa, and I will continue to deliver this message to both the government and it's representatives from Ottawa at Queen's Park.