Building relationships with our municipal partners

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

We know rural and small towns are the backbone of Ontario. Rural Ontario provides crucial sources of food, water, energy and recreation for the province.

There are 469 rural municipalities in Ontario – both Haldimand and Norfolk are among that number. Rural municipalities cover 96 per cent of Ontario’s land area, but account for 17 per cent of the total population. Given these numbers, it is easy to see how we are being left behind politically and economically.

We are different than urban folks. We have a different way of life. We can’t opt out of owning a vehicle or paying insurance because we have no public transportation. As a result, out-of-control gas prices and carbon taxes hit us harder. We understand the idea of clean/green energy but also know it comes with a significantly higher price with one of those prices being aesthetics as wind turbines dot rural landscapes. And, ‘shadow flicker’ is very real for the person in rural Ontario who may have turbines near their home. Losing valuable farm land to solar farms is another concern.

The list goes on, and although we love our way of rural life, we see the political and economic disparities and wish we could be treated fairly and equitably. I will be frank with you – I don’t see this respect restored anytime soon. Decisions are being made on how many votes can be had, and as the data above shows, the biggest bang for the vote is in the cities.

Fortunately, we have folks who work to ensure the rural voice is not forgotten entirely. The Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA), which is the rural voice of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), held its annual conference last week in Toronto. Both Haldimand and Norfolk mayors and representatives attended, taking key concerns for their respective municipalities to the Ontario government.

I sit on the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee, which is in the process of conducting hearings on pre-budget and Bill 46. I was disappointed committee hearings were scheduled at the same time as ROMA, forcing a very difficult decision. I cannot be in two places at once. I cannot send staff in my place for committee but I could for ROMA, so I went one way and my Communications Advisor went to support our mayors and municipalities.

When committee hearings began, I spoke on a Point of Order that the government must ensure these scheduling conflicts do not occur in the future when avoidable, as this was.

Both mayors kept me abreast of what was occurring at ROMA and we followed up with each other afterward. That’s how we get the best for HN!

Norfolk Mayor Amy Martin said her delegation has returned home energized and encouraged at future opportunities for the county. ROMA provided the county a chance to sit down with many ministries as well as others who can advocate for the area’s needs. A highlight of the trip was a meeting with the Ministry of Infrastructure to discuss the Inter Urban Water System. This is a project I will help move along.

Similarly, Mayor Bentley felt ROMA was a fulsome learning experience. She looks forward to following up with each minister with all the concerns Haldimand County took forward. She also found networking with other municipalities to be valuable.

While we may not always agree, maintaining a solid relationship with Haldimand and Norfolk is of utmost importance. I look forward to continuing to work with my municipal partners.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk.