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AMO toughening up on ‘download’

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The Association of Municipalities of Ontario is demanding the province keep its promise--or else.

But what they’ll do if the province doesn’t has not been discussed yet, AMO president Michael Power said last night from Toronto.

"I think what we have to do, to be very blunt, is that we set out the parameters," he said. "We have to wait for a response from the province."

At a special meeting there last Friday, AMO got tough with the province and demanded it cough up additional funds to make the "download" of services revenue neutral.

"It still isn’t revenue neutral," Power charged, but added the province is still saying it will be.

If the province refuses, municipalities are warning they will have to pass the financial burden on to taxpayers. And they’re threatening to make sure taxpayers are told on the bottom of the tax bill how much extra was added because of provincial "downloading."

AMO also is demanding the correct final "Who Does What" numbers by Feb. 20--along with the necessary legislation to give municipalities full control of all municipal expenditures, including the "downloaded" services.

"We just reiterated our displeasure to the province," said Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, who attended the meeting.

But Mayor Witherspoon added he wasn’t sure, with the recent regulations allowing the province to dictate what could be put on a tax bill, if municipalities would actually be able to do what they were threatening.

"Probably not," he admitted.

"[But] who’s going to stop us?" Power asked, stressing it wasn’t likely the province would throw every Ontario municipal council in jail if they did it.

AMO is arguing the "download" cannot be achieved without a $565 million contribution from municipal taxpayers.

It also noted the municipal sector has been hit by a $1.132 billion reduction in provincial transfers from 1993-97--more than half ($807 million) of which has happened since the Harris provincial government took office in 1995.

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