The second day of the AMO 2020 conference provided thorough discussion on infrastructure, transportation and climate change and how COVID-19 has impacted these areas for municipalities. The day was kicked off by Minister Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, who provided an update on the ways in which the government is supporting municipalities throughout COVID-19. He explained that sustained flexibility would be pivotal in enduring the rest of the pandemic. The enaction of the emergency orders, which allowed municipalities the ability to host council meetings virtually, enforce important by-laws, etc., has provided much needed flexibility, the Minister explained. Due to the success of these orders, with 80 percent of municipalities choosing to host council virtually, the province is authorizing municipalities to continue to do this even outside of the emergency orders.
In addition to this announcement, the Minister spoke about the Community Development Benefit and the new areas that are now eligible for development charges (i.e. old age homes, public health, etc.), which will greatly assist municipalities in recouping costs.
Following the Minister’s address, AMO hosted their inaugural Women’s Leadership Forum, which had three prominent women speak about their experiences in leadership positions in the public sector. The panel provided context as to what it is like to be a woman leader in the public service and some of the obstacles they have had to overcome.
The day proceeded with addresses from Andrea Horwath, Leader of the NDP and Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Liberal Party, who both spoke about how the government could improve on providing funding and assistance to municipalities in order to help with ongoing service delivery issues. Additionally, Minister Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure, spoke about the Province’s assistance with getting shovel ready projects started and several funding programs available to municipalities, including the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), Ontario Community Infrastructure Program (OCIF) and the ICON program for broadband connectivity.
Prior to the concurrent sessions, AMO hosted their second Minister’s Forum of the conference, focusing on infrastructure, transit and resource development. This forum engaged several important points of discussion, from when we will see a long-term transit program to improving municipal funding for flood mitigation. The Minister’s were able to provide some guidance on issues, such as funding programs that would be applicable, for example the ICIP Green Stream and Disaster Mitigation Fund for flood mitigation, as well as the ICON program for broadband connectivity (a consistent topic of interest). Further, when referencing a long-term transit program, the Minister’s brought up the importance of service integration and exploring pilot programs that some municipalities are implementing. Overall, the Ministers are cognizant of the ongoing issues that COVID-19 has created for infrastructure and service delivery and are working on providing necessary funding through various avenues.
The second day of the AMO Conference concluded with several concurrent sessions. Two of the sessions were focused around climate change mitigation, one focusing on food waste and the other focusing more broadly on how municipalities can participate in mitigation actions. For example, one of the recommendations considered was improving bike lanes and access to bike riding infrastructure. In addition to these sessions, there were also conversations on how to change the current state of long-term care homes in Ontario and on racial discrimination.