by Tara Gesner
After being returned to Queen’s Park for a fourth consecutive time by voters on June 7, Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier kicked off a victory tour of the municipalities in his Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding.
On June 12, Hillier made his first stop in Carleton Place, speaking at the start of the policy review meeting.
Mayor Louis Antonakos noted the re-elected MPP wanted to “give us a sense of where we are headed when the new government is formed.”
“Things have changed,” Hillier stressed. “The change that happened last week signals a transformative change in our relationships between the provincial government and our municipal partners.”
“I know we have heard that term often — municipal partners — in the past,” he added. “Over the last decade, however, I do not believe it has actually been a partnership so much.”
Hillier talked about a couple of key priorities he is going to be advancing.
“We have seen over the last decade an imposing of responsibilities on municipalities as well as an imposing of prescriptive processes on how you are to executive those responsibilities ... without proper funding mechanisms, without certainty in funding mechanisms,” he said.
“That is not indicative of a partnership,” the politician continued. “A partnership is not big brother telling little brother what to do and how to do it, and go find your own money to make it happen.”
Hillier believes it is critical this relationship be changed.
“Municipalities should have greater autonomy in their own determinations and decision-making,” he said. “Greater autonomy with respect to funding and executing those responsibilities.”
The other priority is predictability and certainty on the funding relationship between the provincial government and municipalities, especially regarding infrastructure.
“That needs to alter substantially ... from this lottery-type process we have in place now where there is no certainty.”
The re-elected MPP believes it is critical municipal councils work with the government to advocate for these changes.
During the Ontario general election of 2018, Hillier took 52 per cent of the vote, beating out NDP candidate Ramsey Hart, who won 30.5 per cent of the vote, and Liberal and Green contenders Amanda Pulker-Mok and Anita Payne, who won 10.5 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively. Other nominees were John McEwen (Independent) and Steve Gebhardt (Libertarian).
“If you have questions or things you want to advance, my door is always open and my phone is always on,” Hillier told council members.
“On behalf of council and all residents, congratulations on your success,” Antonakos said. “We look forward to working with you.”
Premier-designate Doug Ford takes office on June 29. He will be tasked with compiling a cabinet to form his government.
Antonakos assured council he has already pre-booked a meeting with Hillier and “whoever the new minister of infrastructure might be” to discuss Central Bridge, the main crossing on Bridge Street near the town hall.
Owing to a detailed structural analysis of the bridge, this past December council heard it is too far gone and replacement is recommended. The structure would be constructed in stages and cost millions.