Province cuts some rural funding again
Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative
It’s a familiar story. Brooke-Alvinston is going to have to do with less funding from the provincial government.
And Brooke-Alvinston Mayor David Ferguson said the decrease in the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund is part of a planned effort by the provincial government to strip rural municipalities of funding and give it to areas of the province where population is growing.
Brooke-Alvinston will lose $67,800 this year or 13 per cent less funding than last year. The municipality will receive $453,900 – about 2.2 per cent of Brooke-Alvinston’s entire budget.
For over a decade, Brooke-Alvinston and most of the small municipalities in Central Lambton have dealt with decreasing funding in the OMPF grants. Over 10 years, Brooke-Alvinston has lost $1 million in provincial funding.
Dawn-Euphemia, Enniskillen and Warwick have also dealt with funding cuts over the past decade. This year, Dawn-Euphemia, Warwick and Enniskillen will get more provincial cash.
“We got a big increase. It won’t even cover inflation,” said Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott, saying he had a brief conversation with Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton who recently asked about the issue.
Enniskillen will receive $309,400 in 2023, an increase of $23,100.
“I was happy when he asked,” said Marriott. The MPP heard a lot of small municipalities received small increase. McNaughton couldn’t figure out why the increases were so small.
“If you can figure out the formula, more power to you, “ said Enniskillen Clerk/Treasurer Duncan McTavish, emphasizing how complicated the funding formula for the grant entrails.
Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Gary Atkinson would also like an explanation from the provincial government on why his municipality’s funding was cut 9.7 per cent. Plympton-Wyoming will receive $808,600 in 2023 – $87,000 less than 2022. “We could always use the money,” says Atkinson, saying it will make the budget process more difficult, especially with one of his major campaign promises being the replacement of infrastructure.
Ferguson is also concerned about maintaining infrastructure. He pointed to the need for rural municipalities to maintain their roads, saying it is already difficult because inflation is pushing the cost of materials like asphalt up. In some cases, projects are taking two years or more to complete because of costs.
He said more development is beginning to come into Brooke-Alvinston, because of the high cost of development elsewhere. Brooke-Alvinston doesn’t have the same level of services larger centres have, which is keeping the cost down. This will lead to population increases but it takes time. “It doesn’t happen overnight,” said Ferguson.
The mayor would like to have some frank discussions about the decreasing provincial support but that hasn’t happened.
“They don’t want to talk about it,” said Ferguson about Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey and McNaughton. Ferguson says municipal leaders can only ask questions about the fund if they’re already in a meeting about another subject. He says if you just want to talk about OMPF; they will not meet with you.
In the past, McNaughton committed to doing a review of OMPF, but he is not sure whether this has taken place yet.
Ferguson believes the province has to create new funding for rural municipalities with populations under 6,000.
OMPF by the Numbers
Brooke-Alvinston $453,900 down $67,800
Chatham-Kent $19,126,600 down from $20,019,000 892,400
Dawn-Euphemia $247,400 up $3,900
Enniskillen $309,400 up $23,100
Lambton Shores $1,800,900 up $200,000
Oil Springs $180,900 down $3,900
Petrolia $879,900 up $15,600
Plympton-Wyoming $808,600 down $87,000
Point Edward $700 down $100
Sarnia $3,601,400 down $22,200
St. Clair $972,100 up $21,800
Warwick $418,000 up $17,900