By Dan Rankin
Perth South Treasurer Rebecca Clothier, one of the driving forces behind researching and preparing a delegation with the Ministry of Finance on behalf of the County and its lower tiers regarding the province’s Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) program, said she is pleased with how the Feb. 21 presentation was received.
“The delegation went really well,” she said, noting that along with a large group of Perth County representatives, Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece also attended their presentation to Ministry of Finance staff and Laura Albanese, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance.
During their delegation, Perth representatives requested that the province slow its phasing out of a transitional assistance grant, as well as guarantee a uniform level of support for northern and southern municipalities, and commit to “multi-year allocation” of funds to assist municipalities in planning.
For rural municipalities rich in farm land but lacking in population and assessment diversity, Perth also called on the province to alter how the OMPF’s Farm Area Measure funds are allocated. According to the Perth group’s speaking notes for the presentation, the province’s current method of providing those funds on a “per household” basis, is counter to their purpose of assisting rural municipalities struggling with infrastructure upkeep. The Perth delegation suggested the Farm Area Measure be allocated to rural municipalities on a “per-acre” basis.
They also called for the province to gradually increase the pool of funds available in the Farm Area Measure from the current $5 million to an area closer to the $46 million that was in the 2012 Farmland and Managed Forest Grant. “We recognize the fiscal challenges of the Province,” they said. “But we also recognize that 12 percent of the OMPF’s $505 million envelope remains to be defined.”
Provincial policy mandates that agriculture, the region’s primary economic driver, is only taxed at 25 percent. “It is our feeling that Mississauga or Toronto or any other urban centre would likewise incur fiscal challenges if their primary economic driver of industry was only taxed at 25 percent,” they said.
“Our staff did an excellent job presenting it and it was well received,” agreed Perth South Mayor Robert Wilhelm, who also attended the meeting.
In a letter written by Pettapiece to Minister of Finance Charles Sousa dated March 1, the MPP outlined the points made by Perth’s delegation, while also attaching a 2013 letter he had sent to Sousa criticizing cuts to OMPF funding in 2013. “It is past time for your government to resolve these issues,” Pettapiece wrote.
Joining Clothier and Mayor Wilhelm from around Perth County were, among others, County Warden Meredith Schneider, Perth Treasurer Renato Pullia, North Perth CAO Kriss Snell, North Perth CAO, Perth East CAO Glenn Schwendinger, and West Perth Mayor Walter McKenzie.
“We’ve recently had a meeting set up with the ministry of finance staff to go over the information that we presented,” Clothier said. “I think that’s a great sign, that we’re making some progress with them and at least they’re willing to continue listening to us. We’ll be talking to them on March 29.”