The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) met on March 9 and 10, 2023 in the County of Lennox and Addington for their annual strategic priority setting meeting to set Caucus priorities for the year ahead.
The EOWC identified the following priorities for 2023:
- Affordable and Attainable Housing
– The EOWC’s ‘7 in 7’ Regional Housing Plan
- Long-Term Care
- Paramedic Services
The EOWC will continue to address municipal sector issues that arise throughout the year ahead on an as needed basis.
“Now more than ever, municipal governments play a vital role as organizations that unify and strengthen Ontario and Canada. The EOWC is in a position to lead, inform and respond during the coming year and beyond. The Caucus has set clear goals and we intend to strongly advocate on behalf of our region’s communities and residents” stated EOWC Chair Peter Emon.
Affordable and Attainable Housing
Housing affordability and attainability remains a key focus of the Caucus. Across the EOWC’s region, there are approximately 12,000 to 14,000 units on municipal community rental housing wait lists. People are waiting an average of almost 5 years and up to 10 years in some cases to access these community rental housing units. As part of the Ontario Government’s goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031, the EOWC is looking to do our part in increasing housing supply through our bold ‘7 in 7’ regional housing plan.
The EOWC’s ‘7 in 7’ regional housing plan proposes building at least 7,000 community rental units over seven years across the region to address the wait lists. The plan would require partnering with the Federal and Provincial Governments, as well as the private and non-profit sector, and Indigenous partners. Using a mixed-model approach, the ‘7 in 7’ plan has the added benefit to bring on nearly 21,000 additional market rate units. This would total 28,000 housing units. The EOWC is moving ahead with the ‘7 in 7’ plan and is currently working with KWM Consulting Inc. to create a business case to move forward effectively and sustainably.
The EOWC is also calling on the Provincial and Federal Governments develop a strong financial framework to support municipalities in order to better prepare, plan and implement housing and related support services. In addition, the EOWC is advocating for upper orders of government to standardize language around housing and have clear streamlined definitions for both ‘affordable’ and ‘attainable’ housing.
Municipal governments are key partners in the delivery of long-term care, which was highlighted continuously throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The EOWC was an initial advocate for the four hours of care model that the Province is in the process of implementing and continues to provide evidence-based feedback to inform the government’s decisions around long-term care and related supports.
Throughout the year ahead, the EOWC is advocating for a long-term care human resources strategy to address staffing shortages across the region that works for rural homes and their labour market. As part of the human resources advocacy, the EOWC is continuing to call on the Provincial Government to eliminate staffing agencies that pose an unnecessary and unsustainable resource and cost burden on municipalities.
Additionally, the EOWC is advocating that the Provincial Government review and modernize the long-term care funding framework. The EOWC is ready to continue to provide sound input on behalf of member municipalities and work with government and stakeholders.
Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, EOWC member municipalities have experienced increased pressures on their paramedic services. During the year ahead, the EOWC is advocating for permanent, sustainable and predictable funding to support paramedic services as well as community paramedicine efforts.
The EOWC is also calling on the Provincial Government to modernize the dispatch system to improve the prioritization of calls and overall level of service. Additionally, the Caucus is advocating for the Provincial Government and associated stakeholders to reduce offload delays at hospitals which would allow paramedics to spend more hours serving their communities
Currently, the EOWC is working with ApexPro Consulting Inc.to update the EOWC’s 2019 Review of Eastern Ontario Paramedic Services Situation Overview report. This will provide a current regional level data overview of paramedic services. The EOWC looks forward to sharing the report, findings and recommendations with government and applicable stakeholders once finalized in summer of 2023.