Advocacy at Budget Time: Making the Case for Municipal Funding Priorities

March 27, 2023

Mayor Lefebvre meets with Ministers Fedeli (left), Rickford (middle), and Wilkinson (right)

In these photos, Mayor Lefebvre is seen with Minister Vic Fedeli (left photo, second from left), Minister Greg Rickford (centre photo), and Minister Jonathan Wilkinson (right photo)

While our municipal budget was approved a few weeks ago, there are still two other budgets that will impact government spending over the next year.

The 2023 Ontario provincial budget, Building a Strong Ontario, was released last Thursday, and the federal budget is slated for release on March 28. These documents outline a plan for public expenditures.

Why does this matter to us in Greater Sudbury?

Municipalities have limited means of generating revenue – essentially, we collect funds through user fees and property taxes. We rely on money from other levels of government to top up our coffers, so we can afford additional capital infrastructure projects or to expand local mental health and addictions services, for example. 

Many projects and issues that require additional funding are not unique to Greater Sudbury. In fact, we are part of several associations that lobby the governments on behalf of a group of communities. These include the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the Ontario Big City Mayors (OBCM), and the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM).

These associations collect input and data from their members to represent our interests and amplify our voices. At budget time, they advocate for funding on shared municipal priorities.

This year, many associations are highlighting the urgent need to address the mental health, addictions and homelessness crises affecting so many communities. For instance, the OBCM has called on the Ontario government to fund additional community outreach, low-barrier drop-in service hubs, and safe consumption services. They have also asked for provincial funding for supportive housing programs for individuals with complex mental health needs – something I have repeatedly identified as a need here in Greater Sudbury.

We know that collective lobbying is effective: just last Friday, March 17, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), which will help municipalities across Canada address barriers to construction. While the fund responds to a common need – “more houses built, faster” – it is designed for flexible implementation to suit local needs. It is my hope that Greater Sudbury will receive additional funding through the provincial Homelessness Prevention Program and Indigenous Supporting Housing Program outlined in the 2023 Ontario budget.

And some needs certainly are specific to the local context.

In Greater Sudbury, we have a robust mining services and supply sector. Earlier this month, I attended the PDAC conference in Toronto, and was inspired by the impressive showing of local companies. These firms are leading technological advances in the industry and are at the forefront of underground battery electric vehicles. It reinforced to me how important it is to urge government support for this sector.

When I returned from PDAC, I sent letters to Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, and Ontario Minister of Finance, Peter Bethlenfalvy, encouraging them to invest in our critical minerals sector in 2023. This is particularly timely, as our major trading partners develop their own ambitious plans, like the Inflation Reduction Act in the US and the Green Deal Industrial Plan in the EU.

In these letters, I call for support for Canadian companies throughout the entire critical minerals supply chain – from exploration and extraction, through processing, to value-added manufacturing and recycling. We saw some support promised in the 2023 Ontario budget area, Advancing Ontario’s Critical Minerals Strategy, with dedicated support through the Ontario Junior Exploration Program.

I have asked that both levels of government contribute to infrastructure projects that enable the growth and expansion of firms in sectors related to critical minerals, battery electric vehicles, and renewable energy. This can include funding for research, job training, and re-skilling opportunities to successfully transition the workforce to cleaner, greener production. As the world evolves to a low-carbon future, we must ensure that our skilled mining and manufacturing jobs remain in Canada, in Ontario… and in particular, in Greater Sudbury.

In the coming weeks, we will have a better sense of how governments will be spending in 2023. As Greater Sudbury Mayor, I will continue to advocate for our community’s needs, so we can keep making good things happen here.