Uxbridge’s hopes for funding from the Province for the long-awaited Downtown Flood Alleviation project were dashed this week with the news that their request from the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund had been turned down.
The reasons given by the province were all too familiar for the municipality: high household income rates among residents, user fees and service charges imposed by the township, high municipal taxes and perhaps most troubling of all, a lack of debt for the township.
It’s baffling that the higher levels of government continue to punish municipalities that manage their money (mostly) wisely, while doling out millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to municipalities where fiscal responsibility is an afterthought. As well, the matter is one of public safety with the downtown culvert currently vulnerable to large-scale flooding in the event of a major storm.
The Liberal government in power would be wise to take some lessons from municipal leaders in North Durham, unlike Queen’s Park which is currently facing a revenue shortfall of more than $500 million for this year.
The answer to these growing infrastructure issues facing municipalities across the province is not to continue having local governments force their hands into the pockets of the local tax base. Nor is it by incurring mountains of debt that could take generations to be paid back, if they are ever paid back.
Instead, the provincial government should look to take examples from what is working in places like Uxbridge - which has not had to borrow money to complete an infrastructure project since UxPool was completed in the early 1970s - and use them as a guide to help get their own financial mess cleaned up.
Refusing to fund these projects because some members of the residential tax base could potentially be wrung for even more money is so shortsighted, it could only come from Queen’s Park.
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