FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2021
BAY OF QUINTE – The Ontario government is introducing the Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021 which, if passed, would help connect more communities to reliable, high-speed internet sooner. This legislation proposes to reduce costs to broadband providers associated with attaching broadband wirelines to hydro utility poles and would provide timely access to poles and to municipal rights of way to install broadband on municipal land.
“We are helping to build better infrastructure faster and strengthening communities like Prince Edward County, Quinte West, and Belleville, while laying down the foundation for future growth, renewal and long-term economic recovery,” said Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte. “Our proposed legislation, if passed, would help connect individuals and families to reliable broadband across our community, and get more people back to work as the province recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As many as 700,000 households and businesses in Ontario lack access to adequate broadband speeds or have no internet connection at all. These proposed measures would help communities connect to reliable broadband sooner, so people can work from home, learn online, connect with family and friends, and access vital services.
“Now more than ever, we need to help ensure unserved and underserved communities are connected to reliable broadband,” said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. “By taking this step, our government is proposing to speed up Ontario’s broadband expansion, increasing our competitiveness, strengthening communities, and making life more convenient for families and individuals. The Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act would get our infrastructure working better for Ontario.”
These proposed measures build on the province’s Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. On November 4, 2020, the Ontario government announced a historic investment of almost $1 billion to improve broadband and cellular services, which is an additional $680 million on top of its previous commitment.
“All Ontarians deserve access to reliable high-speed broadband and equal opportunity to engage in our ever-growing digital economy and lifestyle," said Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. “By reducing barriers and costs for internet providers to use existing electricity infrastructure, we are creating a path forward to deliver cost-effective and timely broadband service to communities across our vast province."
- Internet and telecommunications service providers based in Ontario face the highest hydro utility pole attachment rates in Canada.
- This legislation builds on the Ontario Rebuilding and Recovery Act and the Building Transit Faster Act to help accelerate the building of key infrastructure projects to create jobs and lay the foundation for a strong economic recovery.
- Last year, the Province launched the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program, a multi-year program that aims to support approved broadband and cellular projects as early as Spring 2021. Ontario announced in November 2020 it was doubling funding in the program to $300 million.
- The Province has invested in initiatives to improve connectivity across Eastern and Southwestern Ontario. It has also invested in broadband projects through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Next Generation Network Program.
- Expanding access to broadband is part of Ontario Onwards: Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan for a People-Focused Government, which includes more than 30 projects that will change the way people and businesses interact with government.
BAY OF QUINTE – Today, Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, announced the Ontario government is providing $567,676 to help local municipalities address ongoing COVID-19-related operating costs. The new financial relief will help ensure the delivery of critical services during the pandemic and keep capital projects on track.
The City of Belleville will receive $201,754, the City of Quinte West will receive $164,549, Prince Edward County will receive $117,846, and Hastings County will receive $83,527.
“Our municipalities provide vital frontline services and we know COVID-19 has significantly impacted their operating budgets. This investment will help them deliver those services safely, while respecting the bottom line for their taxpayers,” said Smith.
Today’s announcement is part of the Province’s $500-million investment to help ensure the stability of Ontario’s 444 municipalities as they plan for the year ahead. The funding is being prioritized to help municipalities hardest hit by the pandemic and can be used for things like personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and by-law enforcement.
“Our government continues to adapt and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it evolves, and we know our municipal partners are on the front lines of this effort – providing the critical services people depend on every day,” said Steve Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Our municipalities have been clear that they need ongoing operating funding in 2021, and it is important that we step up and provide that support so our municipal partners can continue to deliver the services Ontarians rely on each and every day.”
This provincial investment builds on the $1.39 billion in operating funding that was provided to municipal partners through the joint federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement. The second phase of the Safe Restart Agreement was allocated to all Ontario municipalities in December, to ensure that no community entered 2021 facing an operating deficit from 2020.
“Municipalities are important partners in the fight against COVID-19,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board. “We know the global pandemic has created significant financial challenges for communities across the province. That’s why we have been there with support from the very beginning. I encourage our federal partners to step forward with additional investments as all three governments work together to protect people’s health and jobs.”
“COVID-19 has put extraordinary financial pressure on the City of Belleville. This funding will greatly assist us as we deal with another challenging budget later this month.”
Mayor Mitch Panciuk, City of Belleville
“Quinte West is very pleased to receive this additional support from the provincial government. We have worked hard to provide the same level of service to our residents throughout the ongoing pandemic, and this funding will allow us to continue doing so throughout 2021.”
Mayor Jim Harrison, City of Quinte West
“The County of Prince Edward faces significant budgetary pressures in 2021 due to COVID-19. The municipality has continued to suspend penalties and interest on unpaid property taxes and water and wastewater bills through the first quarter of 2021 to assist people financially impacted by the pandemic. The County is also dealing with lost revenue with our recreation facilities and town halls either closed or operating at a reduced capacity. The additional support provided today by the Province of Ontario along with the Safe Restart Agreement funding is helping the County address its financial challenges while continuing to deliver the services that residents and businesses rely on every day.”
Mayor Steve Ferguson, Prince Edward County
“COVID-19 has deeply affected all of us and as a government focused on supporting people and our communities, this funding will ensure that our critical services are available to all who need them. I want to thank the Ontario government for their continued investment and support of local municipalities.”
Warden Rick Phillips, Hastings County
- The government will provide its next update on Ontario's finances and the government's plan to continue the fight against COVID-19 in the 2021 Budget, to be delivered no later than March 31, 2021. The 2021 Budget will build on the $45 billion in support set out in Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover to continue protecting people’s health and supporting Ontario’s economy through COVID-19 and beyond.
- Ontario is also supporting municipalities in finding budget savings and efficiencies through the Audit and Accountability Fund and Municipal Modernization Program.
- See how your organization can help fight COVID-19
- Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect the people of Ontario from COVID-19
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, MARCH 1, 2021
BAY OF QUINTE – Ontario is providing an additional $968,509 in funding to help local municipalities address the financial impacts on its transit system from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, announced the City of Belleville will receive $871,198, the City of Quinte West, $87,503, and Prince Edward County, $8,815, through their Phase 3 allocations under the Safe Restart Agreement.
“This is great news for our local municipalities,” said Smith. “COVID-19 continues to impact our transit system and this additional funding will ensure local transit can continue to operate and provide a vital service for those who need it.”
This funding is part of an additional $150 million allocated by the Province on top of the $2 billion previously committed by Ontario and the federal government through the Safe Restart Agreement to help municipalities continue to deliver critical transit services. Including all three phase, the total Safe Restart Agreement transit investments in Bay of Quinte to date are: Belleville - $2,915,714; Quinte West - $328,788; and Prince Edward County - $69,045.
Funding amounts have been allocated based on a formula driven by ridership. During the peak of the pandemic, ridership dropped up to 90 per cent of normal levels for some of Ontario’s transit systems, which resulted in significant financial impacts for municipalities.
Belleville Mayor Mitch Panciuk was pleased to receive the funding.
“The City of Belleville has been committed to providing residents with safe, reliable and uninterrupted transit service since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Panciuk. “Altering our transit system to ensure this service was maintained has come at a high cost but was necessary to allow residents to continue to get to work, appointments and essential services. This funding is greatly appreciated and will go a long way in making sure our residents continue to have access to these necessities.”
The additional $150 million in provincial funding means that there is a total of $650 million in funding still available to municipalities up to Dec. 31, 2021, with extensions to December 2022 granted on a case-by-case basis. In addition, Ontario is calling on the federal government to match the additional funding announced today to help ensure municipal financial needs continue to be met.
“We heard from municipalities and we are responding to their need for more support as COVID-19 continues to result in lost revenue and additional costs for transit systems,” said Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation. “Transit operators have done an incredible job keeping transit operating during this challenging time, and this support will help ensure there is reliable transportation for people can get to work or pick up essential items.”
As part of the Safe Restart Agreement funding, municipalities need to work with the province to explore options to ensure local transit is safe, sustainable, affordable and integrated, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
To support this work, Ontario is allowing municipalities to use Safe Restart Agreement funding towards new initiatives to make it easier and more affordable to travel between different transit systems, like adding capacity for on-demand micro-transit and increasing fare and service integration across the region.
“We are committed to supporting our municipal partners in their mission to build back transit ridership when we come out of this pandemic,” said Kinga Surma, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Transportation. “We recognize there’s an opportunity now to work with our partners to ensure transit is safe, sustainable and affordable, both during COVID-19 and as we begin to recover.”