Why are municipalities covering costs for medical, educational facilities?
By Liz Dadson
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There's an often-misquoted line from the movie "Field of Dreams" that says, "If you build it, they will come."
However, in the Province of Ontario, it seems to be the mantra, that if the municipalities will build it, then the province doesn't have to bother.
Sure, we've seen a flood of money come into Kincardine over the past couple of years - stimulus funding from the provincial and federal governments - in an attempt to prop up a sagging economy by helping to pay for badly-needed infrastructure projects.
The money has been used to replace the Huron Terrace Bridge, restore the outside of the Kincardine Arts Centre, build a new gymnasium.
And while that's all well and good, what about the projects that Kincardine, and many other municipalities, must undertake but which aren't even under the municipal mandate?
Take the medical clinic, for example. It was rather ironic to see Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb and MPP Carol Mitchell joining in the ribbon-cutting for that building, given that neither government had put a dime into it nor provided any "stimulus" funding for physician recruitment and retention.
The Municipality of Kincardine built the original clinic, dealt with the problems stemming from that fiasco, and then built an addition to the clinic - all at local taxpayers' expense. And without any health care dollars which are all funnelled to the province.
Now that we have a beautiful facility, the province has granted us a Family Health Team. With any luck, we can now retrieve the nurse practitioner whose education the municipality paid for, but could not utilize because she could work only in a Family Health Team.
And fortunately for Kincardine and Saugeen Shores to the north, Bruce Power has stepped up to the plate and is providing substantial money toward physician recruitment and retention, including cash for incentive packages given to new doctors who come to this area.
Even more irritating, just last week, Kincardine council agreed to build a sidewalk to provide a safe place for parents to drop off their children at Elgin Market Public School.
It's understood that the safety of students is a prime directive for a municipality, but bear in mind the reason why these children are being dropped off so far away from the main doors? Because the Bluewater District School Board eliminated all the parking at the west and south ends of the school, to allow 16 buses to drop off students in the morning and afternoon. The increased traffic stems from more students taking French Immersion at the school.
So, examine this for a moment. The municipality is providing a drop-off zone, at a cost of $8,000 plus maintenance which will be even more difficult in the winter time, because the school board didn't bother to correct a problem it created in the first place. And ultimately, who is in charge of education? The province.
The Ontario government is double-dipping from the taxpayers' pocket by demanding taxes for health care and education and then forcing municipalities to use precious few property tax dollars to pay for projects directly related to health care and education.
And we haven't enough room here to begin the debate about the work done by municipalities in dealing with nutrient management and industrial wind projects.
It's time to demand the Ontario government spend provincial dollars on medical and educational facilities and let the municipalities deal with their own projects.
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Saturday, November 06, 2010