In this double election year, we’re due for a refresher on the responsibilities of the provincial and municipal governments. Undoubtedly you have issues that matter to you, but do you know who can affect the change you want to see?
The provincial government controls health, education, and energy, and shares responsibility for justice, Indigenous relations, the environment, tourism, and heritage designations, among other things.
The Province has also played a role in several hot-button issues in Peterborough. For instance, in the fight to prevent the municipal Parkway plan, many of us (myself included) appealed to the provincial Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to demand an environmental assessment. Similarly, the casino development adjacent to Harper Park was contested directly to the provincial government. In that fight, the park was successfully designated as provincially significant, but the project was allowed to proceed regardless.
In these cases, it was appropriate to go over the heads of City Council, while other issues are strictly municipal or provincial. The sex ed curriculum, the Basic Income Pilot Project, the Residential Tenancies Act, and the privatization of Hydro One are all provincial affairs.
The municipal government, on the other hand, is responsible for all things local, including waste, sewage and water management, public transit, libraries, animal control, public nuisances, municipal land use planning, fire services, and some police services. The sale of PDI is a municipal issue, as is the plan for a downtown arena.
Our extremely low vacancy rate, which contributes to the housing crisis in Peterborough, is the responsibility of the City, though many are hoping for a provincial or even federal housing strategy. The City’s approach is outlined in the 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan, but it is our shared responsibility to hold them accountable to that plan as well as the rest of the Official Plan, including the Municipal Cultural Plan and the Wellbeing Plan, which is in the final stages of development.
All levels of government, federal, provincial, and municipal, require the public’s participation to be truly democratic. And to participate fully, it’s essential that we take some time to inform ourselves. I urge you all to understand the platforms of each party in this provincial election, and down the road, the platforms of those running for mayor and councillor of your ward.
This is a high-stakes year. We have the opportunity to radically transform the political landscapes of Ontario and Peterborough. Let’s do it knowledgeably.