Downloading a major burden to small towns

Municipalities across Ontario complained that former premier Mike Harris downloaded many provincial costs to them.
But in doing that, the Conservative government transferred additional funding to offset some of those.
In a more subtle method, Premier Dalton McGuinty—in a bid to eliminate the provincial deficit—has handed over to Rainy River District many additional costs. And communities are just beginning to see where those costs lie.
The province has become more stingy. For instance, the “Connecting Link” subsidy that paid for 90 percent of the cost of rebuilding Highway 11 through Fort Frances has all but disappeared.
The province has come into believing that since the highway is important to the community, taxpayers of the town should pay a much greater portion.
For three-straight years, the town has applied for funding to complete the last stretch of Highway 11 that runs through the town. No provincial funding has been made available.
Earlier this year, the province shuttered the tourist information centre at the border crossing at Fort Frances. They forgot to take the signs down, though, and many tourists still are stopping there for information.
A sign directing visitors to another site in Fort Frances was removed from the door.
Taxpayers in Fort Frances are now footing the bill for providing tourist information to visitors from the United States. Similarly, in Kenora, the residents of that community are providing information to visitors to Ontario from the western provinces.
It has been an effective method of transferring costs downward in Ontario.
Just this past month, the province revealed it no longer would trap and relocate nuisance bears. That, too, has been left to municipalities and is another cost of downloading.
Now if you have a problem with a nuisance bear, one can call the “Bear Wise” hotline on your cellphone and pass it to the bear, which then will be instructed by someone at a safe call centre on the other end to move on.
Or in an emergency, you call the police. But calling the police will be billed back to the municipality.
Bylaw officers in Fort Frances also will be handling nuisance bear calls.
And by removing the last resident judge from Fort Frances, the cost of justice here just went up. In many instances or emergencies, it may be important for legal necessities to take place before a judge.
A judge in the district always was available for such emergencies. In the future, however, a justice only will be available as their travelling schedule permits.
Instead, one will need to travel to Kenora, Dryden, or Thunder Bay to get immediate help. The costs of justice have been passed down and the citizens of the district will pay more.
These have been minor changes which have not attracted any attention in urban centres. But for smaller rural areas, this downloading has added new, unexpected taxpayer costs.

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