I am often asked whether it is appropriate for City Council to be commenting on matters that are not within the jurisdiction of the municipality, such as water-taking permits or social housing. My answer is a clear YES!
Technically, cities are "children of the province" in that we exist and have authority granted to us through provincial legislation, such as the Ontario Municipal Act and the Ontario Planning Act. But what child doesn't question the authority of a parent? But we are not trying to negotiate a new bedtime or curfew. We are standing up for issues that affect the daily lives of the citizens we represent.
Decisions made by other levels of government affect us locally. Cities are responsible for collecting property taxes to pay for services and programs that are mandated by the province, including the education tax. We are supposed to work together for the public good. But what if the parent (province), without warning or consultation, cancels funding of a public transit project that is already under construction? Or the province ends a program for safe-injection sites or social housing or home energy retrofits or infrastructure funds for renewable energy? Municipalities, and its citizens, are the losers. We have two choices: 1) follow along, pay the price, and live with the impact, or 2) stand up, challenge bad policy and fill in the gap by creating our own local initiatives.
A great example is the recent repeal of the Climate Change Mitigation and Low Carbon Economy Act, 2016 (aka "cap and trade") as well as the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Incentive Program by the new PC Ford government. These programs were contributing to Guelph's economic prosperity (we are home to Canadian Solar, as well as Linamars production of wind turbine components). We were well on our way to our achieving a net zero carbon footprint by 2050, which benefits all Ontarians. Incentivizing change is key to transforming our energy economy. I will always stand up for Guelph against other levels of government when they make decisions that negatively affect us locally.
Guelph is a member of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities (FCM) and the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO). These organizations regularly engage on our behalf with the provincial and federal governments on issues that affect municipalities. While we are thankful for the role that FCM and AMO play on our behalf, we must also raise Guelph's voice on specific issues that impact us here at home.
So yes, we must weigh in on issues that matter outside our jurisdiction. Our local voice has a place at Queen's Park and Parliament Hill.