Warden likes what he hears
Greater Madawaska mayor Peter Emon will succeed Petawawa mayor Bob Sweet as Renfrew County Warden in December.
Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon is reassured the new Liberal cabinet will strive to resolve those challenges facing Ontario’s municipalities.
While Tuesday’s Throne Speech at Queen’s Park listed jobs, restrained spending and support for the needy as top priorities of Premier Kathleen Wynne, Emon heard some other positives in the words delivered by Lt.-Gov. David Onley.
“They talked about a renewed commitment to infrastructure and also to discussing infrastructure needs with the municipal sector,” the warden said Wednesday after attending a meeting of the county’s finance and administration committee.
Onley said it is time to begin a “serious conversation” with Ontario municipalities about the infrastructure they need to thrive. That will include the building of bridges and roads, undertaking repairs and planning transit.
In the speech, which laid out the Liberals’ blueprint for the legislative session, Onley said municipalities must have a “voice in their future” and a say in their regional development, noting that residents should be involved on whether a gas plant, casino or wind plant will be in their communities. The Wynne government says it will “restrain spending” to help reduce the province’s debt-to-Gross Domestic Product ratio and recommit itself to eliminating the deficit by 2017-18.
The Liberals pledged to “engage in conversation with its municipal and community partners,” a move Emon sees as very favourable for upper and lower tier municipalities. He also approved of the concept of “predictable funding” which could help the county in planning its expenditures in coming years.
“Any organization, and a municipality is no different, needs to be able to offer its people a predictable financial plan going forward,” said the warden.
Emon was glad to see the speech focus on expanding access to home care and mental health care, and moving forward with the Seniors’ Strategy, a series of recommendations submitted by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that respond to important issues facing older Ontarians such as increasing care accessibility, strengthening primary care, and improving co-ordination across health providers.
“We want to keep people in their homes a little longer. It’s a lot cheaper to bring services to them and to keep them independent,” said Emon. “So we’re very interested in that discussion.”
Next week’s Ontario Good Roads/Rural Ontario Municipal Association convention in Toronto will be invaluable in municipal leaders gauging the Liberal government’s sincerity.
The warden hopes to have a chance to speak with the premier and the leaders of the opposition, Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak and New Democrat Andrea Horwath. His message to them will be that Ontarians expect them to work together.
“Ontario and the municipal sector is sick of watching the childish games and the brinksmanship that goes on,” he said. “We don’t need another election unless it is absolutely necessary but there should be enough common ground between the three parties to keep going, provide valuable leadership and good government.”
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist