By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County and its lower-tier municipalities will collectively receive about $645,000 in further infrastructure funding through the province’s Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund.
Premier Doug Ford announced $200 million in new OCIF money for Ontario’s rural municipalities during the annual Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference on Jan. 25. Like so many events amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ROMA conference, which took place Jan. 24 through 26, was held using a virtual format, with municipal politicians, staffers and keynote speakers participating remotely. Normally the annual event takes place at a hotel in Toronto.
“I appreciate the opportunity to once again speak to our rural mayors at a critical moment in our province’s history,” Ford said in a digital address. “We’ve all been through a challenging year with the onset of a global pandemic. At this time last year, no one could have imagined the devastating impact of COVID-19.”
“I’m looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and working together for a swift recovery, when the time is right,” Ford said. “Until then, I want all our municipal leaders in rural Ontario to know we will always have your backs.”
“We recognize that municipalities need flexibility to address their own priority infrastructure needs,” Ford said of the OCIF money. The funding is designed to assist municipalities with roads, bridges and culverts, as well as water and wastewater infrastructure.
The program works on a population-based formula. The County of Haliburton will receive nearly $285,000; Dysart et al nearly $160,000; Minden Hills just more than $102,000; and Algonquin Highlands and Highlands East each $50,000.
“Investing in local infrastructure projects that help strengthen our communities and support Ontario’s long-term economic recovery is important to help get shovels in the ground on important community projects,” Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP and Ontario Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott said in a release.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was set to shape much of the discussion during the conference.
“This conference comes during a crucial time in the battle against COVID-19,” ROMA chairman Allan Thompson said in a statement. “It offers rural municipal officials the opportunity to learn from one another on joint challenges and to advocate for shared priorities. It is important to bring a rural lens to provincial-municipal matters.”