Lambton rural politicians want to talk funding cuts with province

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Lambton County Warden Todd Case is looking for a meeting with the Minister of Finance after funding cuts he says are a “kick in the pants to rural Lambton County.”

Rural municipalities across Lambton will be receiving fewer dollars under the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund – the main grant the province gives municipalities to pay for thing such as policing, reduced taxes for farm land, and roads and bridges. The province is reducing how much money it provides across the province by $50 million this year and some politicians say rural Ontario is being unfairly targeted.

An analysis by Lambton’s general manager of finance, John Innes, shows virtually every rural municipality with significant farmland facing provincial cuts between 9 and 15 percent while urban areas such as Petrolia, Oil Springs and most notably Sarnia are receiving increased funding. Sarnia alone will receive $970,000 this year.

“The agricultural community in the County of Lambton have been hit very, very hard,” says Case. “This is a huge kick in the pants to rural Lambton municipalities.”

St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold agrees. His municipality is facing a cut of nearly $133,000 or about 14 percent of the funding. “We’ve lost $1 million (in provincial funding) in the last five years,” Arnold says, adding the municipality has already approached the Finance Minister about the issue.  “We didn’t get much satisfaction,” says Arnold.

He adds, the province dubbed part of the grant stability funding and he was under the impression “that was as far as the cuts were going to go…but it looks like the carnage will continue.”

Case hopes to make a case with provincial officials saying it is crucial the municipalities know where they stand. “How do we plan for the future if we’re going to be clubbed over the head?”

While most rural municipalities are supportive of discussions, some politicians wonder if any good will come from it. “There is no rhyme or reason to the cuts,” says Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott who says municipalities have broached this subject before and it seemed “to be a waste of our time to speak with them because here we are today with more financial problems.”

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