"Show us the money, or as Howie Mandel has been saying lately, no deal," is the message Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette says Halton Region has for the Province on its Places to Grow plan. Bonnette made that statement during the Region council meeting Wednesday where a motion was passed unanimously to tell the Ontario government that Halton can't accommodate the thousands of residents called for in its growth plan without some substantial money coming Halton's way. The Region estimates $8.6 billion is needed to help build more schools, hospitals, fire halls, police stations, roads and transit systems that will be required as Halton grows by 312,000 people by 2031 based on the growth targets in the provincial plan. Bonnette, with other Halton mayors from Oakville-Brian Burton, Burlington-Cam Jackson, Milton-Gord Krantz and Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr, took the message of the region-wide effort dubbed Fairness for Halton to the Queen's Park press gallery Thursday. With Halton Hills in line to accept a large share of Halton's growth, perhaps even quadrupling its current population in 25 years, Bonnette stressed the need for provincial funding. "Add another 20,000, 40,000 or 60,000 people to the population growth that has occurred (in Halton Hills) so far, without that needed fully funded financial plan, we will have, without exaggeration, a crisis of very serious proportions," said Bonnette at Queen's Park. "We would have a bankrupt region and town." He said the Halton mayors and chair are calling on the provincial government to adopt both an "adequate provincial infrastructure plan to meet its responsibilities and provide an adequate municipal infrastructure support program to enable the region and local municipalities to meet their responsibilities." He also said they would like to see the province amend the Development Charges Act to overcome its current deficiencies, "many of which have helped to create the municipal infrastructure deficit as it exists today." Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh, who fully support's Halton's position, was on hand for the presentation, as was Waterloo-Wellington MPP Ted Arnott.
Chudleigh said there was only one news camera at the press conference, but that was not unusual because he said the media could be watching and listening from elsewhere in the Queen's Park building. He said the provincial Liberals were doing "everything they could to distract them (the media) from the (Halton) press release." That same morning the Liberals were making an announcement about a hospital in Oakville, and Premier Dalton McGuinty made an announcement at Queen's Park when the mayors and chair were speaking, said Chudleigh. Carr said press coverage was not the only purpose of the event at Queen's Park. He said the conference is televised at Queen's Park to all the MPPs and staff, and they're also hoping to target any candidates in the fall provincial election. Carr also said they are asking the provincial opposition to ask questions on their behalf in the legislature. They are also trying to engage the public to tell them why they should care about the provincial growth plan and the impact it could have on their wallets, not to mention social and health implications. "We're going to be saying to the public, here are the facts and we want them to very clearly articulate that to all the local candidates (in this fall's provincial election)," said Carr at the region Wednesday. Carr said they were hoping for some "financial consideration" in the upcoming provincial budget. "If you say, you pay," was Milton Mayor Krantz's message to the Province. Jackson said if the Province was going to dictate "inside our urban boundaries, our population and growth levels, the pace of growth they have a moral obligation to become our financial partners." Burton said the region motion delivers a friendly and helpful message to the Province, but later said Places to Grow should be called "Places to Sprawl" because it identifies areas for greenfield development.
Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette answers questions from the media Wednesday at the Halton Region building in Oakville where he and (from left) Regional Chair Gary Carr, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton and Burlington Mayor Cam Jackson, along with Milton Mayor
Gord Krantz, announced they would be going to Queen's Park yesterday to voice their displeasure with the provincial government's contentious Places To Grow growth plan