LaSalle Post Reporter Web Desk
The County of Essex is calling on provincial candidates running for election June 2 to commit to addressing six priorities for the region.
These priorities, outlined in several Essex County Counts position papers that have been posted online and discussed at County Council, are crucial to the quality of life of Essex County residents and the continued economic development of this growing region.
“Essex County Counts was endorsed by council because we want parties and candidates to give residents a clear picture of where they stand on issues that matter to us,” said Essex County warden Gary McNamara. “We want commitments from candidates on these issues and will be pushing those who are elected to act.”
Essex County Counts focuses on the following six priorities:
1) Provincial support to ensure the new Windsor-Essex Hospitals System is built.
Functional design of the new regional hospital is underway and a timeline for construction has been announced. The County of Essex has set aside $31 million and is committed to providing a total of $100 million toward the cost of building the modern, state-of-the-art hospitals system Windsor-Essex residents deserve. Continued provincial support is imperative to ensure the completion of this transformational project that will redefine health care in the region for decades to come.
2) Increased and more stable funding for the rehabilitation and construction of roads, sewers, and water and wastewater services.
Municipalities are responsible for roads, sewers, water and wastewater services, and other vital infrastructure that keeps Ontario running, but local taxpayers can’t be expected to address the massive and growing infrastructure deficit. Recent boosts in provincial funding through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund and Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund will help but aren’t nearly enough to pay for infrastructure rehabilitation and construction that will be necessary over the next decade. The need for enhanced infrastructure includes desperately needed energy for this region to allow for continued economic development.
3) Increased funding for building and maintaining affordable housing, along with consistent and substantial funding for health and human services provided by municipalities.
The wait list for affordable housing in Windsor-Essex is at more than 5,000 and growing. Addressing the affordable housing and homelessness crisis requires more than just an infusion of capital dollars to increase the supply. It requires an increase in operating funds to the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative and other mental health and addictions services programs. A comprehensive and integrated provincial response is required in terms of services, supports, prevention and equitable access.
4) Faster expansion of broadband service to rural areas.
Even in Southwestern Ontario, one of Canada’s more densely populated areas, there are communities, homes and businesses without reliable internet access. The provincial government has been a solid partner in rectifying this inequity, but we need more funding to move faster to ensure rural residents and businesses have the competitive edge they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.
5) Financial support to address climate change.
The County of Essex declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and followed that up in May 2021 with an ambitious Regional Energy Plan in partnership with all seven local municipalities and the Essex Region Conservation Authority. The region can only capitalize on the transformational economic opportunities outlined in the plan with financial support from a meaningful partnership with the province.
6) Reforming of laws and pooling of resources to reduce municipal liability and insurance costs.
The skyrocketing cost of municipal insurance has continued unabated during the pandemic, with many municipalities reporting increases greater than 20 per cent. This increase is being borne by the property tax base and it is unsustainable. Potential solutions to rising insurance costs include a provincial fund that could limit municipal exposure and the pooling of insurance amongst municipalities to lower costs. Reforming the joint and several liability regime alone could save the municipal sector $27 million in insurance costs, and that money could be directed to projects and priorities that improve the everyday lives of residents.
McNamara also cited as a pressing local concern the need for the Province to ensure an adequate energy supply to allow for the continued economic development of this region.
“These are tangible steps the next provincial government can take to move our region and Ontario forward,” said McNamara. “Show us Essex County Counts, and we will work with you to build a bright future.”
Essex County council is made of the mayors and deputy mayors of seven municipalities: Amherstburg, Essex, Kingsville, Lakeshore, LaSalle, Leamington and Tecumseh.
Source: County of Essex