‘Time is up’: Ontario mayors warn of tax increases, layoffs without coronavirus relief funding

Ontario’s mayors are warning of tax increases and layoffs unless they receive emergency COVID-19 funding from the provincial and federal governments to cover costs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, who chairs the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO), said on Monday that municipalities across Canada have been asking for $10 billion in funding for several months, including $4 billion for Ontario communities.

Read more: Ontario mayors ask province, feds to help municipalities with post-pandemic recovery plan

“We are still waiting,” he said. “Frankly, time is up.”

The comments came after a meeting with the mayors and chairs from across the province, represented by LUMCO along with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Mayors and Regional Chairs of Ontario.

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Guthrie said municipalities are now halfway through the budget year and will have to make difficult decisions such as raising property taxes and fees and laying off staff.

Other things being considered include cancelling transit services, closing parks and reducing essential services like public health and first responders.

Read more: Toronto would need 47% property tax increase to maintain services if $1.5B budget gap isn’t filled, mayor says

“Cuts and property increases will hurt the very same people that the federal and provincial governments have spent billions on trying to help during this pandemic,” Guthrie said.

Municipalities have been on the front lines of the pandemic, but Guthrie said it has meant hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs and lost revenues.

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He also noted that municipalities are not allowed to run a deficit in their budgets and must find ways to balance the books.

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Toronto Mayor John Tory echoed Guthrie’s statement and added that the municipalities are showing an unprecedented form of unity.

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He said there has been good dialogue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford, but municipalities need action and need it now.

“I respectfully suggest that they set a deadline on themselves of this week to get this resolved, to make sure it is done in a way that is fair and responsive to the concerns of all municipalities across the country,” Tory said.

Read more: Municipalities ask feds for $10B to maintain vital services

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 154 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 35,948.

The death toll in the province remains at 2,672, as no new deaths were reported.

Meanwhile, 31,426 Ontarians have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, which is 87 per cent of cases.

With files from Gabby Rodrigues

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