We were pleased to be back in the City of Toronto earlier this week to take part in the 2024 ROMA conference. Throughout the conference, we had the opportunity to learn more about important work going on in the sector and hear directly from subject-matter experts and government officials.
Provincial elected officials were provided with a platform to address delegates during the ROMA conference. While there were no major policy announcements made, several ministers provided information about upcoming program intakes and other ministry updates.
Premier Ford’s speech provided an overview of some of the key achievements of his government including investments in the electric vehicle industry and highway expansions. He also announced further details of the Building Faster Fund, including that an application-based process will launch soon for municipalities without housing targets to access their 10% share of funding.
In his first address to municipal delegates as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra reiterated the government’s commitment to build more homes, stating that all levels of government must play a role. He called on the federal government to pay for its fair share and told delegates that they too need to hold themselves accountable. He said that the government’s next Housing Supply Action Plan will be its most ambitious yet. He thanked municipalities for their collaboration and patience with the Province.
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Lisa Thompson, announced that a new intake of the Rural Economic Development Program has opened and will close on February 21. Updated program guidelines and an application are now available. She also announced that the government will launch a consultation on a new Rural Economic Development Strategy.
Minister of Infrastructure, Kinga Surma, announced that municipalities will be able to apply for funding beginning January 29, through the Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund first announced in the 2023 Fall Economic Statement. This program will provide $200 million over three years to help municipalities repair, rehabilitate, and expand critical water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. Applications will be accepted until Friday, April 19.
Ontario NDP Leader, Marit Stiles, addressed delegates sporting a t-shirt from the Women of Ontario Say No campaign, reiterating her commitment to strengthening tools to hold municipal councillors accountable for violence and harassment. She spoke about the importance of investing in health care, protecting the Greenbelt, and her support for a new deal for Ontario municipalities.
In her first major speech as Ontario Liberal Leader, Bonnie Crombie spoke about her commitment to building new and improved relations with rural communities based on shared values, collaboration, and respect. She spoke about the importance of investing in infrastructure and her party’s commitment to holding municipal politicians accountable for egregious behaviour.
Finally, Ontario Green Leader, Mike Schreiner, spoke about the importance of stable, predictable funding for municipalities, as well as the importance of building housing while protecting Ontario’s farmland.
Other Highlights and Observations
ROMA Chair, Robin Jones, provided an overview of the association's 2024-2027 Strategic Plan which identifies objectives of supporting municipal capacity building, and advocating for change.
As always, the ROMA conference provided an important opportunity to hear directly from decision-makers, continue important conversations with our members and other leaders in the municipal sector, and advance the AMCTO's advocacy priorities. For more on our advocacy work including an update from our ROMA delegations, see our latest advocacy updates and submissions.