At election time, social service deliverers in Northern Ontario are looking for help with property taxes. They'd like to see the province upload the cost of social housing and land ambulance service.

Barry Baltessen chairs the Kenora District Services Board, and he's also the vice-chair of the Northern Ontario Service Deliverers Association.

"At our Annual General Meeting coming up in June, we have a broad variety of resolutions to help focus thinking at Queen’s Park as to the social service needs of the North," he said.

Ontario is the only province in Canada that does not fund 100 percent of the costs of land ambulance, or social housing, and there is a limited property tax base from which to pay for any portion of these services, Baltessen added.

The municipal agencies have also been entering into agreements with indigenous partners.

In the past several years, NOSDA has entered into Memoranda of Understanding with other organizations, such as the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Service and the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association. Strong working relations have also been formed with the Housing Services Corporation and the Northern Local Health Integration Networks.

Over the last decade, the province has been uploading some of the responsibilities relating to social services. These have included drug benefits, ODSP and Ontario Works. According to the Ministry for Municipal Affairs, this has amounted to almost $2 billion.

The costs associated with public housing were downloaded to municipalities in the mid-1990s. Earlier this year, Ottawa and Queen's Park announced a $4.2 billion agreement on housing.

Across the province, the new agreement is meant to help 130,000 units. The services board is hoping to add more than a hundred new housing units over the next two years.

For more information:

NOSDA - Northern Ontario Service Deliverers Association

Kenora District Services Board

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