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City hall 'desperate' for financial bailout to avoid 'painful choices'
LONDON, ONT. -- Mayor Ed Holder is turning up the heat on senior governments to bail out municipalities facing massive deficits caused by the pandemic.
“Without immediate assistance from the provincial and federal governments, we are going to need to make some additional difficult and extremely painful choices,” warns Mayor Holder.
He says in addition to London Transit soon being on “life support”, other municipal services are facing a similar financial threat.
City council recently supported lobbying efforts by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities seeking at least $10 billion from the federal government to cover municipal budget shortfalls across Canada.
“The challenge is municipal governments across this country, who are the front line and (the) bottom line, have somehow been ignored in this process and they have to step up.” says Holder.
But the mayor’s strong words aren’t sitting well with London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos.
“The federal government is not a bottomless pit. The reality is, provincial governments need to be there too.”
Fragiskatos adds that dozens of municipalities that are reopening their budgets to find savings, and postponing non-essential capital projects.
“I’m not hear to lecture the city of London, but when I see other cities and towns across the country doing that as we speak, then I wonder if conversations in that regard are happening at city hall here?”
The most recent estimate pegs London city hall’s deficit caused by COVID-19 at $23-$33 million. The budget shortfall will grow if the pandemic extends beyond August.
Fragiskatos adds that senior governments are aware of the financial challenge, “There is a conference call this evening between the federal government and the various provincial and territorial governments to discuss municipalities.”
Holder stresses urgency.
“I believe they are talking, I think they are trying to find the right arrangement but we are desperate.”
Civic administration will update the deficit projection in a report going to council in June.