When everyone got to the Italian Canadian Club Sunday for the annual New Year's Levee with the Member of Parliament and the Member of Provincial Parliament it was pouring down rain, but as they left there was already a substantial amount of snow on the ground. It almost seemed like a metaphor, perhaps a statement about how quickly change can come. As for the levee itself, change was definitely a theme as Lloyd Longfield and Liz Sandals have a lot of work to get done on some pretty big issues if those in attendance have any say.
On top of mind for many at the levee were one of two portfolios (or both): infrastructure and the environment. Ward 5 Councillor Cathy Downer, who was in attendance at the levee with her ward mate Leanne Piper, said those are the two areas she hopes that the governments in Ottawa and Toronto focus on in 2016.
"Municipalities are having a real struggle because the only funding source we have is the tax base, and the gap is in the tens of millions of dollars [now]," Downer said, adding the the Liberals campaign promise to take budget deficits and put them toward infrastructure spending is a good first step. "I know the Feds have promised that, and we look forward to that, and we as a municipality need to get our ship in order and have a plan for that as well."
Kithio Mwanzia, President and CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce agreed on that first priority. "Infrastructure is going to be very important moving forward, and there's going to be a lot of prosperity enabling infrastructure that I'm hoping that [the Federal and Provincial governments] will be able to work together on," he said.
On the environment, Downer said that like infrastructure, combating climate change is a huge concern with many of her colleagues province-wide. "I noticed at the last AMO (Association of Municipalities in Ontario) conference, the most discussion was around climate change, and what we're doing as municipalities to deal with the extreme weather conditions, how we can be better prepared, and also how we can have our community participate in reducing emissions," Downer explained. "I'm actually hopeful that both these levels of government have that on the books, but I will certainly be advocating that they keep their feet to the fire on those issues."
Mwanzia's other priority for the year, especially considering the current economic climate, is to keep Guelph competitive regionally, nationally and internationally. "It's a very competitive international environment, a very competitive regional environment, so we want to be able to see a regulatory environment that allows businesses in Guelph to compete at that level when it comes to skills, energy, access to new markets," Mwanzia said.
For more thoughts and opinions about what Longfield and Sandals should prioritize in 2016, I draw your attention to the below video featuring input from a couple of the local politicos in attendance at the levee.
*Music from the video is "Auld Lang Syne" by Lovebyte via the Free Music Archive.