Mayor pleads for COVID-19 bailout, but senior governments point to each other
LONDON, ONT -- City Hall’s desperate bid for a COVID-19 financial bailout faces a new hurdle - the federal and provincial governments disagree over who should foot the bill.
“Please. It’s time. We need you, and we need you now more than ever,” London Mayor Ed Holder is blunt about the financial crisis caused by the pandemic and the need for senior governments to help out.
On Tuesday, city council endorsed lobbying efforts by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) seeking at least $10 billion to fill municipal budget shortfalls across the country.
Civic administration estimates the pandemic will lead to a budget shortfall in London of $23 to $33 million by this summer.
The projected deficit will climb higher if the pandemic’s impacts extend into the fall.
But lobbying by FCM for senior government funding has reignited long simmering questions about responsibilities.
“Cities fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial government,” explains London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos.
He says federal assistance will require collaboration with the provinces, “And so the provinces have to be at the table. They have to assist cities. The federal government ought to assist.”
But Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing tells CTV News in a statement, “We join our municipal partners in calling on the federal government for emergency funding.”
Holder believes both governments must play a role, “l do believe there is an onus on the provincial government to step up as well. I’m not sure what that cost sharing would, could, or should be.”
Fragiskatos agrees that the federal government must partner with the provinces.
“The federal government cannot be left carrying the entire financial package as a response. The provincial governments have to be with us as well," he says.
The province concludes its statement on a collaborative note, “We continue to monitor the situation and work with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and our federal partners to understand how to better support our municipal partners.”
Holder suggests the stakes are too high not to find a solution.
“Without a healthy, viable municipality, the province and the federal government just don’t matter.“