Ont. premier pledges $100M more per year infrastructure funding for municipalities

St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson, left, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Jeff Leal, Minister of...

St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson, left, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs drive home railway spikes Monday in St. Thomas to complete the Ross St. subway replacement project. The Premier used the occasion to announce the launch of a $100 million per year infrastructure fund available to smaller and rural communities. (Ian McCallum/QMI Agency)

Norman De Bono, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- The province is boosting infrastructure funding for small, rural and northern municipalities by $100 million a year, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Monday. The cash will be doled out through a new fund called the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund.

Wynne aimed the news at the more than 1,500 municipal leaders from across Ontario are in London this week for their annual conference.

Wynne, who is due to speak at the event Tuesday, made the announcement while standing on the site of the former Ross St. in St. Thomas. The 106-year-old railway bridge was demolished this spring and the roadway raised to grade at a cost of about $2 million. The province is funding 90% of the original budget estimate, $1.26 million.

Russ Powers, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), told delegates the province will pay nearly $1.6 billion in costs this year that used to be paid by municipalities. The total of "uploaded" costs since 2008 is $6.1 billion, he said.

"They're the most supportive government that municipalities have had in decades" he said of the Liberals.

But Powers also said the province is putting the squeeze on municipalities by cutting its transfer payment program, changing the OPP billing model and increasing workplace insurance for emergency services and wages for personal care workers.

He identified rising costs for policing and fire as the biggest challenges facing municipalities.

"We need to rein in policing costs. Ontario has the highest policing costs in Canada. We need to rethink how we deliver policing -- and we need to restore confidence in Ontario's interest arbitration system," he said.

The AMO represents 418 of 440 Ontario municipalities. Toronto and Sarnia are the largest cities who aren't members.


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