Northumberland County’s warden and the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) recently had the ear of the province’s minister of infrastructure.
Reflecting on the recent Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference in Toronto, Northumberland County warden Brian Ostrander said he and his EOWC colleagues took the opportunity to highlight challenges around housing, among other key issues for the caucus.
“With the EOWC, I attended a delegation with the minister of infrastructure (Kinga Surma), providing the minister and her team with the needs across eastern Ontario and the municipal sector in general,” Ostrander told kawarthaNOW.
“We know that in order to build more houses faster we also need to invest in the municipal infrastructure that is required to service those homes and the residents who will move to our communities,” Ostrander said. “We highlighted the massive gap between what municipalities can afford to do with property tax dollars and the need for repairs and maintenance items.”
On another note, the warden added, the EOWC continues to support a review of how services are delivered, by which level of government, and how they are funded.
“The Association of Municipalities of Ontario is undertaking a social and prosperity review which will help guide municipalities and the province to better understand what services might be better managed at the provincial level and how we might better provide revenues to the municipal levels of government to manager service delivery and pay for infrastructure upgrades and renewals,” Ostrander explained.
From across Ontario, the EOWC joined more than 2,000 rural municipal colleagues at the conference to participate in meetings with provincial ministers, members of provincial parliament, and the Ontario New Democratic and Liberal opposition parties to share the EOWC’s “critical priorities,” a media release noted.
The EOWC’s pressing priorities include affordable and attainable housing, next generation infrastructure funding, long-term care, and modernizing the construction approval process. For details about the priorities, visit the EOWC website at eowc.org.
“The EOWC believes that strong partnerships between government are needed to tackle housing, health, and economic challenges across the region,” said Peter Emon, EOWC chair, in the media release. “The ROMA Conference was a success in building upon our relationships to better serve our 103 communities across rural eastern Ontario.”
Ostrander said housing was also on the agenda of a delegation he took part in with Northumberland County. The warden attended a delegation with the associate minister of housing Rob Flack, providing him with Northumberland’s need for lands, currently owned by the province, that might be better used at the county level for affordable housing projects.
“The conversation was thoughtful, and we hope to hear from the ministry on next steps soon,” Ostrander said.
Overall, “ROMA was very busy from a minister’s delegation perspective” for the Northumberland warden, as he attended three different delegations during the conference, which ran from January 21 through 23 at the Sheraton Centre Hotel on Queen Street West.
ROMA is the rural voice of AMO. The association “is an integral part of AMO” and several of its executive members serve on the AMO board of directors, according to the ROMA website. Policy, research, and advocacy activities are undertaken by ROMA through AMO.
“ROMA is committed to promoting, supporting and enhancing strong and effective rural governments and socially and economically sustainable rural communities, today and into the future,” the website states.