By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
People ask how politicians avoid answering questions. Truth, many talk about what they want you to hear rather than the question asked. While at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) in London recently, someone suggested to me that it’s a real talent to avoid the question and believes many of Ontario’s cabinet ministers are extremely talented. The pair of us had a little chuckle but it’s not funny. The taxpayer pays the bills and deserves answers.
If you haven’t heard, Ontario has a housing crisis. Of course, I’m being facetious, but talking about the crisis is how Premier Ford avoided the controversy associated with the Greenbelt during the four-day conference. Facing backlash on the heels of the Auditor General’s Greenbelt report, the Premier went on the positive in attempt to “change the channel.”
“We are an economic powerhouse,” Ford told a crowd. One cabinet minister described Ontario as thriving. Being upbeat is usually something I’d encourage but putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t change the fact it’s a pig. Given the crowd – mayors and councillors from across the province – the Premier and ministers weren’t easily let off the hook.
While in London the government announced a $1.2 billion building faster fund to reward municipalities with money who hit home-building targets. How Haldimand and Norfolk will fare is yet to be determined but I do know that most people in our riding do not want to see fast-paced development. Yes, most understand that development is inevitable but what they’ve seen in neighboring communities has them concerned and it has me concerned as well.
The $1.2 billion fund will assist municipalities with infrastructure costs, but I suspect it will be a drop in the bucket for most as I was hard-pressed to find a municipality that has the necessary water and sewer capacity to meet the provincial housing targets.
As I drive through our riding, just as I drove through downtown London last week, it is plain to see there are so many other issues falling by the wayside as this government preoccupies itself with the lone issue of housing. A friend of mine recently contacted me about the plan for homeless tiny shelters in her area of Hamilton. I think she summed it up best: “We are normalizing homelessness.” Instead of addressing the root of the problem, instead of taking drastic measures, we are allowing municipalities to deal with the opioid and homelessness issue piecemeal. It’s time this government begins multi-tasking and making tough decisions for the people already paying taxes in this province.
I attended delegations with both Haldimand and Norfolk County mayors and councillors. Both counties did a fantastic job articulating concerns and requests on behalf of the people here in Haldimand-Norfolk. While we may not always agree on certain items, I do feel it important to support our municipal partners when they approach the province.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford was on the hot seat during a delegation attended by mayors and councillors from along the Haldimand Tract, as well as Six Nations of the Grand River Chief Mark Hill and elected council. Details on the meeting will fill an entire column, so I’ll elaborate later.
In an interesting turn of events, both Mayors Shelley Ann Bentley and Amy Martin were extended Strong Mayor Powers. How that will play out will be determined by both councils.
Martin felt the conference was a success for Norfolk County residents as the delegation was able to meet with more than nine ministries, all of whom she felt recognized and commended the County’s brand. Mayor Bentley, councillors and CAO Cathy Case were also able to meet with several ministers on key issues affecting Haldimand County and felt they were able to articulate well their needs and concerns.
Between both counties there are several high-profile issues which the provincial government was made aware of. I was pleased to sit with our two respective counties and support them in their delegations. Now, we need action.
Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk