The final fantasy

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

In a perfect world, there would be enough money to reconstruct the devastated communities in Indonesia and New Orleans. In a perfect world, there would be enough money to provide the needed drugs to stem the AIDS epidemic in Africa. But the world is not perfect, as we have seen.

That's why the recent meeting of the city's subcommittee on social services downloading was an exercise in futility. There are more than 100,000 people living below the poverty line, a significant portion of them children and the elderly. There are about 12,600 people on the Ontario Disability Support Program, one of the largest in Ontario; there are more than 10,000 people on the Ontario Works program and more than 4,600 people are on a waiting list for a home.

Based on these figures one would expect the provincial government would provide the $25 million the city is asking for to fund provincial programs. Yet every year Hamilton officials have to go cap in hand to Queen's Park for social services money. In 2003, Mayor Larry Di Ianni lobbied newly-elected Premier Dalton McGuinty, and the city received $19.5 million. In 2004, through lobbying efforts with former Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, Hamilton received about $15-million through the newly created Municipal Partnership Fund. But for 2006, Hamilton needs $25 million and Sorbara is gone. In his place is MPP Dwight Duncan, who is already feeling the heat over social service costs from his own municipality. A few Hamilton councillors, including Brian McHattie, believe by creating a document that lays out Hamilton's social services conundrum, there is no way the provincial government will refuse this city's financial request.

But as Mayor Larry Di Ianni walks into a pit of snakes, he needs kevlar instead of a fig leaf for protection. "The document is interesting," he says. "It crystallizes what we have been saying over the years." In the cut and thrust of politics, where every Ontario municipality is scrambling to get their financial crumbs, Hamilton would do well to have the weight of its Liberal MPPs providing backup for Hamilton's interests.

But support from Hamilton's area MPPs, at the moment, is a little shaky. A few are grumbling that Hamilton has been on the receiving end of truckloads of provincial money for health care, harbour cleanup, the North Glanbrook Industrial Park, child care and even social services costs. The MPPs believe Hamilton has a financial quota, and it is nearly filled. There has also been some talk that a few MPPs are reluctant to make Hamilton's case at the Liberal cabinet table because they are afraid of being ostracized by the premier's office if they push too hard. "To some MPPs they have stated 'we have given you more money'," said Di Ianni.

It is in this context that the social services downloading subcommittee met recently with the aim of saving Hamilton's vulnerable. For Di Ianni and city council, the stakes for not getting the money couldn't be higher as we head into an election year. Without it, politicians will be hard-pressed to meet their goal of a three per cent average tax hike.

And, if Hamilton doesn't get the money, the city's political relationship with the province, as well as its surrounding Liberal MPPs, could be damaged, while Hamilton's influence at Queen's Park evaporates. "I don't think (the information contained in the document) will surprise (provincial officials)," said Di Ianni. "It will reinforce what we have already been saying."

Kevin Werner is regional reporter for Brabant Newspapers. He can be reached by calling 905-308-7757, ext. 36, or by email at kwerner@brabantnewspapers.com

The final fantasy

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

In a perfect world, there would be enough money to reconstruct the devastated communities in Indonesia and New Orleans. In a perfect world, there would be enough money to provide the needed drugs to stem the AIDS epidemic in Africa. But the world is not perfect, as we have seen.

That's why the recent meeting of the city's subcommittee on social services downloading was an exercise in futility. There are more than 100,000 people living below the poverty line, a significant portion of them children and the elderly. There are about 12,600 people on the Ontario Disability Support Program, one of the largest in Ontario; there are more than 10,000 people on the Ontario Works program and more than 4,600 people are on a waiting list for a home.

Based on these figures one would expect the provincial government would provide the $25 million the city is asking for to fund provincial programs. Yet every year Hamilton officials have to go cap in hand to Queen's Park for social services money. In 2003, Mayor Larry Di Ianni lobbied newly-elected Premier Dalton McGuinty, and the city received $19.5 million. In 2004, through lobbying efforts with former Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, Hamilton received about $15-million through the newly created Municipal Partnership Fund. But for 2006, Hamilton needs $25 million and Sorbara is gone. In his place is MPP Dwight Duncan, who is already feeling the heat over social service costs from his own municipality. A few Hamilton councillors, including Brian McHattie, believe by creating a document that lays out Hamilton's social services conundrum, there is no way the provincial government will refuse this city's financial request.

But as Mayor Larry Di Ianni walks into a pit of snakes, he needs kevlar instead of a fig leaf for protection. "The document is interesting," he says. "It crystallizes what we have been saying over the years." In the cut and thrust of politics, where every Ontario municipality is scrambling to get their financial crumbs, Hamilton would do well to have the weight of its Liberal MPPs providing backup for Hamilton's interests.

But support from Hamilton's area MPPs, at the moment, is a little shaky. A few are grumbling that Hamilton has been on the receiving end of truckloads of provincial money for health care, harbour cleanup, the North Glanbrook Industrial Park, child care and even social services costs. The MPPs believe Hamilton has a financial quota, and it is nearly filled. There has also been some talk that a few MPPs are reluctant to make Hamilton's case at the Liberal cabinet table because they are afraid of being ostracized by the premier's office if they push too hard. "To some MPPs they have stated 'we have given you more money'," said Di Ianni.

It is in this context that the social services downloading subcommittee met recently with the aim of saving Hamilton's vulnerable. For Di Ianni and city council, the stakes for not getting the money couldn't be higher as we head into an election year. Without it, politicians will be hard-pressed to meet their goal of a three per cent average tax hike.

And, if Hamilton doesn't get the money, the city's political relationship with the province, as well as its surrounding Liberal MPPs, could be damaged, while Hamilton's influence at Queen's Park evaporates. "I don't think (the information contained in the document) will surprise (provincial officials)," said Di Ianni. "It will reinforce what we have already been saying."

Kevin Werner is regional reporter for Brabant Newspapers. He can be reached by calling 905-308-7757, ext. 36, or by email at kwerner@brabantnewspapers.com

The final fantasy

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

In a perfect world, there would be enough money to reconstruct the devastated communities in Indonesia and New Orleans. In a perfect world, there would be enough money to provide the needed drugs to stem the AIDS epidemic in Africa. But the world is not perfect, as we have seen.

That's why the recent meeting of the city's subcommittee on social services downloading was an exercise in futility. There are more than 100,000 people living below the poverty line, a significant portion of them children and the elderly. There are about 12,600 people on the Ontario Disability Support Program, one of the largest in Ontario; there are more than 10,000 people on the Ontario Works program and more than 4,600 people are on a waiting list for a home.

Based on these figures one would expect the provincial government would provide the $25 million the city is asking for to fund provincial programs. Yet every year Hamilton officials have to go cap in hand to Queen's Park for social services money. In 2003, Mayor Larry Di Ianni lobbied newly-elected Premier Dalton McGuinty, and the city received $19.5 million. In 2004, through lobbying efforts with former Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, Hamilton received about $15-million through the newly created Municipal Partnership Fund. But for 2006, Hamilton needs $25 million and Sorbara is gone. In his place is MPP Dwight Duncan, who is already feeling the heat over social service costs from his own municipality. A few Hamilton councillors, including Brian McHattie, believe by creating a document that lays out Hamilton's social services conundrum, there is no way the provincial government will refuse this city's financial request.

But as Mayor Larry Di Ianni walks into a pit of snakes, he needs kevlar instead of a fig leaf for protection. "The document is interesting," he says. "It crystallizes what we have been saying over the years." In the cut and thrust of politics, where every Ontario municipality is scrambling to get their financial crumbs, Hamilton would do well to have the weight of its Liberal MPPs providing backup for Hamilton's interests.

But support from Hamilton's area MPPs, at the moment, is a little shaky. A few are grumbling that Hamilton has been on the receiving end of truckloads of provincial money for health care, harbour cleanup, the North Glanbrook Industrial Park, child care and even social services costs. The MPPs believe Hamilton has a financial quota, and it is nearly filled. There has also been some talk that a few MPPs are reluctant to make Hamilton's case at the Liberal cabinet table because they are afraid of being ostracized by the premier's office if they push too hard. "To some MPPs they have stated 'we have given you more money'," said Di Ianni.

It is in this context that the social services downloading subcommittee met recently with the aim of saving Hamilton's vulnerable. For Di Ianni and city council, the stakes for not getting the money couldn't be higher as we head into an election year. Without it, politicians will be hard-pressed to meet their goal of a three per cent average tax hike.

And, if Hamilton doesn't get the money, the city's political relationship with the province, as well as its surrounding Liberal MPPs, could be damaged, while Hamilton's influence at Queen's Park evaporates. "I don't think (the information contained in the document) will surprise (provincial officials)," said Di Ianni. "It will reinforce what we have already been saying."

Kevin Werner is regional reporter for Brabant Newspapers. He can be reached by calling 905-308-7757, ext. 36, or by email at kwerner@brabantnewspapers.com