Municipalities willing to work collaboratively to meet province's fiscal needs: Kitchener mayor

Government leaders from Waterloo region are in Ottawa this week for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario's annual conference. Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says funding cuts will be a major topic. He also expects to discuss affordable housing, GO trains and the regional municipal review.

Affordable housing, GO trains and regional municipal review all to be discussed: Vrbanovic

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic is one of several local municipal leaders at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario annual conference in Ottawa this week. He says he expects to discuss many topics including proposed provincial funding cuts, affordable housing, two-way, all-day GO trains and the regional government review. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Ontario municipalities want to work with the province when it comes to cutting budgets, but it can't come at the cost of hurting vulnerable people, Kitchener's mayor says.

Municipal leaders are in Ottawa this week for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario's annual conference to talk about various issues impacting their communities. As part of that, they'll be sitting down with provincial ministers to work through some of those issues.

On Monday, Premier Doug Ford will address the group and it's reported he will tell the municipalities cuts are coming in 2020.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said the province had made moves to make cuts during this fiscal year, but walked that decision back after considerable outcry from the municipalities.

"I think we're going to be looking to work with the government to see how we can collaboratively help them meet their fiscal needs while also ensuring that we can continue to serve the residents in our communities across the province of Ontario as effectively as possible and that really is are our main concern," Vrbanovic told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition Monday.

"These are often cuts that happen toward some of Ontario's most vulnerable ... so we want to make sure that we don't see that happening, we minimize the impact on them as much as possible."

No report yet on regional government review

Vrbanovic said another issue many people are talking about, and which will be raised with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, is the pending report about the regional government review that the province started earlier this year.

Vrbanovic said Clark has told mayors he has not yet received the report from special advisers Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling. He told the mayors he expects it will arrive in the coming weeks and then he will discuss it with his fellow MPPs, Vrbanovic said.

Vrbanovic said they don't expect to hear more about it until November, and that waiting period is a concern for many communities.

"We certainly have suggested hearing sooner rather than later because some municipalities are finding it difficult, for example, to recruit physicians as people leave and then move on to new roles. You know some communities are finding it difficult to recruit because people aren't sure what the impact of the regional review's going to be," he said.

Vrbanovic says he plans to raise several local issues in meetings, including the economic development, two-way, all-day GO trains and affordable housing.

Vrbanovic said this year's discussions with ministers will be different than last year because now the ministers will have been in government for a year and have a better handle of the issues.

"This is really an opportunity for us to have more meaningful dialogue," he said.


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