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Ontario supports critical programs and services in rural areas

Daryl Kramp, MPP, Hastings-Lennox & Addington. Photo by Samantha Butler-Hassan.

The Ontario Government is investing over $40 million during COVID-19 through the Municipal Modernization Program, to help small and rural municipalities improve the delivery of critical programs and services.

This program is part of Ontario’s $125 million investment through 2022-23 to help small and rural municipalities become more efficient and save taxpayers’ dollars, according to a release from the office of MPP Daryl Kramp, dated Tuesday, Jan 26, 2021.

“This is a proven program that makes a difference for municipalities and their taxpayers and I commend the continuation of this program,” said Hastings-Lennox and Addington MPP Daryl Kramp. “I want to remind all our municipalities that the application deadline for this year is March 15th, 2021, so please get your applications in as soon as possible.”

Initial funding for the program is expected to flow in spring 2021 once funding decisions are made and transfer payment agreements are executed with municipalities, according to the release. Final payments will follow when projects are completed. Funding allocations for eligible projects will be determined once the projects are assessed based on the program criteria, the MPP’s office said.

“Our government recognizes that COVID-19 has created challenges for everyone, including small and rural municipalities,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “By working hand in hand with our local partners, we have ensured that vital services continue to be delivered to individuals, families and businesses. The funding we are announcing today will build on the progress we have made together and allow for further review and modernization of local services so we can get the best return on taxpayers’ dollars.”

The Municipal Modernization Program helps Ontario’s 405 small and rural municipalities find better, more efficient ways to operate and serve their residents. According to the release, municipalities can use the funding to conduct reviews of service delivery and administrative expenditures to find efficiencies or implement a range of projects, including developing an online system to improve the local process for approving residential and industrial developments or setting up new shared services with neighbouring municipalities.

Last year, Ontario funded 184 modernization projects led by small and rural municipalities, including service delivery reviews which found $3 million in potential annual savings for Elgin County and up to $5 million in savings over 10 years in the Township of Douro-Dummer, the MPP’s office said in the release.

This funding announcement was made during the 2021 Rural Municipalities of Ontario Association (ROMA) conference, where Premier Doug Ford, ministers, associate ministers and parliamentary assistants joined hundreds of municipal officials for the first-ever virtual ROMA conference. Meetings were held with almost 300 municipal delegations and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to protect the health and safety of Ontarians, and work in partnership with municipalities to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has highlighted opportunities for small and rural municipalities to modernize local services,” said Allan Thompson, ROMA Chair. “This funding will help municipal governments to review processes and improve services to be more efficient and better meet community needs.”

Each application will be considered on its own merits, according to the release.

Considerations for implementation projects include:

  • The projected amount of savings that the project will achieve
  • The quality of evidence supporting the projected value for money
  • Whether it is a joint project (preference may be given for joint projects)

Alignment with priority themes:

  • Digital modernization
  • Integrating services (e.g. human services, transit)
  • Streamlining development approvals
  • Sharing services/alternative service delivery models

Considerations for service delivery reviews include:

  • Preference for those municipalities that have not previously benefited from a provincially funded service delivery review.
  • Whether it is a joint project (preference may be given for joint projects)
  • Alignment with priority themes as noted above

The intention is to support projects that will enable municipalities to become more efficient and modernize service delivery while protecting the health and safety of Ontarians, according to the release.

Many municipalities have already undertaken a variety of projects using modernization funding. In 2020, 184 projects were approved for funding, including:

  • A third-party service delivery review in Elgin County, which found at least $3 million in potential annual savings through operational improvements.
  • A third-party service delivery review in Frontenac County, which identified a potential $1.4 million in annual operating and capital savings.
  • A third-party service delivery review in the Township of Douro-Dummer, which identified areas of improvement that could save up to $5 million over 10 years.

The MPP’s office said the government will continue working with ROMA and its members to protect the health and safety of rural communities, and help individuals, families and businesses recover even stronger from the impacts of the pandemic.

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