Throughout Ontario, the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a devastating toll on the finances of municipalities. Kingston, like many cities and towns, is deferring property taxes, so that citizens can afford the necessities, like food, shelter, and medication. But as municipal revenues shrink and expenses pile up, local economies are going to need help to recover.
Yes, municipalities will need immediate stimulus, but it’s also time we address how we reached this point, and the widening gaps in the system.
Nearly a generation ago, former premier Mike Harris downloaded provincial responsibilities, including social services, public housing, and public health, onto municipalities. Municipalities were merged. In the decades since, municipal staff numbers increased by a third to deliver these services, while local governments have struggled to balance delivering critical services while keeping property taxes affordable for residents.