Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus set 2023 priorities

EOWC at their Strategic Priority Setting Meeting in March 2023. (L to R): Warden Ron Vandewal, Warden Nancy Peckford, Warden Bob Mullin, Warden Peter McLaren, Warden Henry Hogg, Warden Mandy Martin, Mayor Doug Elmslie, Mayor Steve Ferguson, Warden Tony Fraser, EOWC Chair Peter Emon, EOWC Vice-Chair Bonnie Clark, Warden Liz Danielsen. Missing from photo: Warden Normand Riopel. Photo via EOWC.

At their annual strategic priority-setting meeting earlier this month, the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) met in the County of Lennox and Addington to set Caucus priorities for the year ahead.

At the meeting, which took place on March 9 and 10, 2023, the EOWC identified the following priorities for 2023:

  1. Affordable and attainable housing
  2. Long term care
  3. Paramedic services

According to a release from the caucus, the EOWC will continue to address municipal sector issues that arise throughout the year ahead on an as-needed basis.

“Now more than ever, municipal governments play a vital role as organizations that unify and strengthen Ontario and Canada,” said EOWC Chair Peter Emon. “The EOWC is in a position to lead, inform, and respond during the coming year and beyond. The Caucus has set clear goals and we intend to strongly advocate on behalf of our region’s communities and residents.”

In the release, the EOWC provided the following details on each priority listed above:

Affordable and attainable housing

Housing affordability and attainability remains a key focus of the Caucus. Across the EOWC’s region, there are approximately 12,000 to 14,000 people on municipal community rental housing wait lists. Clients are waiting an average of almost five years, up to 10 years in some cases, to access community rental housing. As part of the Ontario Government’s goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031, the EOWC is looking to do its part in increasing housing supply through our bold ‘7 in 7’ regional housing plan.

The EOWC’s ‘7 in 7’ regional housing plan proposes building at least 7,000 community rental units over seven years across the region to address the wait lists. The plan would require partnering with the Federal and Provincial governments, the private and non-profit sectors, and Indigenous partners. Using a mixed-model approach, the ‘7 in 7’ plan has the added benefit to bring on nearly 21,000 additional market rate units. This would total 28,000 housing units. The EOWC is moving ahead with the ‘7 in 7’ plan and is currently working with KWM Consulting Inc. to create a business case to move forward effectively and sustainably.

The EOWC is also calling on the Provincial and Federal governments to develop a strong financial framework to support municipalities in order to better prepare, plan, and implement housing and related support services. In addition, the EOWC is advocating for upper tiers of government to standardize language around housing and have clear streamlined definitions for both affordable and attainable housing.

Long term care

Municipal governments are key partners in the delivery of long term care, which was highlighted continuously throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The EOWC was an initial advocate for the four-hours-of-care model that the Province is in the process of implementing. The EOWC continues to provide evidence-based feedback to inform the government’s decisions on long-term care and related supports.

Throughout the year ahead, the EOWC is advocating for a long term care human resources strategy to address staffing shortages across the region that works for rural homes and this labour market. As part of human resources advocacy, the EOWC is continuing to call on the Provincial government to eliminate staffing agencies that pose an unnecessary and unsustainable resource and cost burden on municipalities.

Additionally, the EOWC is advocating that the Provincial government review and modernize the long-term care funding framework. The EOWC is ready to continue to provide sound input on behalf of member municipalities and work with the government and stakeholders.

Paramedic services

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, EOWC member municipalities have experienced increased pressures on their paramedic services. During the year ahead, the EOWC is advocating for permanent, sustainable, and predictable funding to support paramedic services and community paramedicine efforts. The EOWC is also calling on the Provincial government to modernize the dispatch system to improve the prioritization of calls and overall level of service.

Additionally, the Caucus is advocating for the Provincial Government and associated stakeholders to reduce offload delays at hospitals which would allow paramedics to spend more hours serving their communities.

Currently, the EOWC is working with ApexPro Consulting Inc. to update the EOWC’s 2019 Review of Eastern Ontario Paramedic Services Situation Overview report. This will provide a current regional level data overview of paramedic services. The EOWC looks forward to sharing the report, findings and recommendations with government and applicable stakeholders once finalized in the summer of 2023.

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