Monday, June 21, 2010

Election Year

(A version of this story originally appeared on the Hamilton Spectator poverty Blog.)

Here is a story about how municipal politicians can lose their way in an election year.

The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) assists municipalities with their social program costs.

Recently OMPF reconciled the 2008 allocations against real expenditures and costs and as a result many municipalities received more money. Hamilton got about $3.1 million dollars; the Region of Niagara got $2.1 million.

I became aware of this late last month when reading a bulletin from CATCH (Citizens at City Hall). CATCH is a volunteer community group that encourages civic participation in Hamilton. The CATCH story focussed on the fact that Hamilton Councillors were all going to be getting about $250,000 each to spend in their wards on sidewalk repairs. "In a shift from normal practice" they apparently decided not to follow the usual priority setting process for allocating funds. This is indeed a shift but it is an election year and you'll see more shifts and other silliness before October 25th.

The CATCH story went on to note that $3.1 million of the $3.6 million fund being divvied up by the Councillors came from the OMPF reconciliation dollars. But shouldn't that money be going back into social services? That suggestion was rejected by Council.

I mentioned Niagara. They took their monies and put $600,000 into Emergency Medical Services and the remaining 1.5 million into an account to offset the Community Services net deficit. That makes sense; seems logical.

Up in Thunder Bay the city got $1.3 million back. Government member Michael Gravelle, the MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, was "absolutely delighted about this additional funding for social programs and other services."

Hamilton politicians seem to be marching to a different drummer here or am I missing something?

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