Doug Ford has pledged to share a portion of the natural resource royalties with Northern municipalities.
This is a potential game changer for cities such as Greater Sudbury from a revenue perspective.
However, the devil will be in the details. Will this share of the royalties be in addition to the existing funding structure of grants by the province to municipalities, or will there be a corresponding cut to the current funding formula by the province?
Will there be further downloading of responsibilities and the associated costs from the province to the municipalities?
What will the percentage of the royalties be, and will it vary from one resource sector to another?
Will the percentage received depend on the size of the municipality?
What if any conditions will be attached to this royalty sharing program?
The answer to these and the many more questions that will come up, will ultimately determine the impact which Mr. Ford's plan will have on the municipalities of Northern Ontario.
Taken at its face value and in conjunction with his other statements that he believes municipalities should be determining what they spend their money on, and Queen's Park should not be telling the municipalities what they can or cannot spend their funding on, royalty sharing could potentially be a blessing or a curse.
The determination of which it will be, will be determined by the actions of the local councils and how they conduct themselves going forward.
The opportunity of a windfall of tens of millions of dollars in new funding, has the potential for a city council to go on a spending spree the likes of which the north has never seen before.
It also holds the potential for a council to hold the line on tax increases and, finally, address the municipal infrastructure deficit.
While roads and sewers are not as flashy as “legacy projects,” they are the cornerstone of what good municipal governance is all about and should be the priority by any council for new sources of provincial funding.
One final thought: for many years, John Rodriguez championed the cause of municipalities receiving a share of the provincial royalties generated, in or around their respective cities. It’s nice to see Mr. Ford embracing an idea that for decades has fallen on deaf ears at Queen's Park.
Perhaps we are on the verge of a new era where the North will finally have a voice, and be recognized for what it is, and what it has, and will continue to contribute to the economic well-being of our great province.