Date published: Friday, February 26, 2016
The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) sees many benefits for Northern municipalities in 2016 Ontario Budget which was announced on February 25th by Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa.
The government committed to significant infrastructure investments outside of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area as previously announced during the Ontario Good Roads Association and Rural Ontario Municipal Association’s conference on February 22nd. These investments included doubling the Connecting Links program to $30 million a year by 2018-2019 and increasing the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) to $300 million a year by 2018-2019 from the current $100 million.
There were investments into the health care system by way of infrastructure and primary health services. Minister Sousa announced $12 billion over ten years in capital grants to hospitals to continue building infrastructure in addition to $50 million to assist hospitals in maintaining their facilities in good repair. Primary health care will receive $85 million over three years through Community Health Centres, Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics, Family Health Teams, Aboriginal Health Access Centres and nursing stations to provide services across the province including Northern and rural communities. “It is important that Northern residents will have increased access to primary care services as many do not have readily access to a physician, particularly in the rural and underserviced areas.” said Mayor Alan Spacek of Kapuskasing and FONOM President.
Ontario’s housing and homelessness system will become more flexible as the province will look to provide benefits that respond to changing housing needs. The Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy will be supported by $178 million over three years to provide housing subsidies and benefits to additional households as well as the construction of 1,500 new supportive housing units.
The 2016 Budget also committed to ensuring more students have access to post-secondary education by making average tuition free for students from families with incomes of less than $50,000 and making tuition more affordable for students from middle class families. “This is a positive step in ensuring all students have equal opportunity to access post-secondary education. Particularly, in Northern Ontario where students often have to leave home and travel long distances to access this education,” stated Spacek.
“While we appreciate the efforts to address climate change through the implementation of the Cap and Trade system, we are concerned about the increase costs to Northerners. The majority of those living in the North do not use a transit system and are heavily dependent upon their vehicles to get to work, medical appointments or engage in day to day activities,” Mayor Spacek stated. “Further to the increase of 4.3 cents a litre for gasoline at a time where prices are already significantly higher in the North, is the increase to diesel by 4.7 cents a litre. This will add costs to the farming and forestry sectors as they are reliant on diesel to operate,” continued Spacek.
For More Information:
Mayor Alan Spacek
President of FONOM