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January 25, 2021
I appreciate the opportunity to once again speak to our rural mayors at a critical moment in our province’s history.
We’ve all been through a challenging year with the onset of a global pandemic.
At this time last year, no one could have imagined the devastating impact of this extraordinary event.
But what is also extraordinary is how all of you continue to rise to the occasion during some of our darkest hours.
As Premier, I couldn’t be prouder of what we have accomplished by working together during such a difficult year.
And I am looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and working together to lay the groundwork for a swift recovery, when the time is right.
Until then, I want all our municipal leaders in rural Ontario to know that we will always have your backs.
This is a government that fights for rural Ontario.
Over the summer, I had the chance to visit many of your communities to see how people were doing.
I saw firsthand so many great examples of the Ontario spirit from the entrepreneurs and businesses I met.
I saw and heard firsthand the challenges you face.
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve been there to support you.
I sat at the table with the Prime Minister and my fellow Premiers and I fought for our municipalities.
We secured a $19 billion deal with Ottawa, including $7 billion for Ontario with $4 billion for municipalities.
That’s $4 billion to support critical municipal services, including shelters and transit.
Just last month, we allocated further funding from this deal to help our municipal partners go into 2021 on stable footing.
That was $695 million to ensure municipalities didn’t carry deficits into this year.
We want to help you get back on your feet because we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel grow brighter as more vaccines arrive every day.
I am pleased to report that Phase One of our vaccine rollout plan is well underway.
We’ve administered well over 200,000 vaccines to date.
We now have capacity to administer 20,000 vaccines a day, and we’re working to double that by February.
General Hillier, Dr. Tien, and the task force have already started the vaccine rollout to rural, Northern, and Indigenous communities.
In the meantime, we are actively laying the groundwork for a strong economic recovery.
As part of our 2020 Budget, we are investing $142 billion over the next 10 years in strategic infrastructure projects, including many projects in rural Ontario.
Today, I am thrilled to announce right here at ROMA that we are investing $200 million again this year in the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, or OCIF.
We recognize that municipalities need flexibility to support their own priority infrastructure needs.
This funding will help 424 small, rural and Northern communities across Ontario with critical projects like building and repairing local roads and bridges, as well as water and wastewater infrastructure.
These are projects that create local jobs, support local businesses and suppliers, and improve the overall quality of life for people living in these communities.
All of these things are critical to a strong recovery for communities in rural Ontario.
As Premier, I’ve also made it a personal mission to ensure that the people of rural Ontario have access to better broadband and cellular services.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, having high-speed Internet and reliable cell service is critical for our daily lives.
Ontarians rely on it for everything from online banking, to learning or working from home, or even just watching a movie with your family.
In a post-pandemic world, we also see the opportunities that remote work and more online access can bring to our rural communities and businesses.
But to get there, we need to start investing today in that infrastructure, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Last fall, our government committed an additional $680 million by 2026 as part of our broadband and cellular action plan.
This brings our total investment to nearly $1 billion to ensure that more communities across the province are connected.
We’re already supporting shovel-ready broadband projects in Southwestern and Eastern Ontario.
We’ve invested $71 million to improve broadband connectivity in Eastern Ontario and another $63.7 million towards the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology, or SWIFT project.
We also recently announced $10.9 million to improve broadband services in Northern communities. This funding will help advance six broadband projects in several Northern towns and First Nation Communities.
As we continue to wrestle with the public health trends, I want to say again: Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.
I’m truly grateful for the ongoing support and help of our mayors and municipal leaders throughout this past year.
Our progress as a province, and as a people, would not be possible without you and your leadership.
Thank you for everything you do to drive the public health messages, support our frontline and essential workers, and keep everyone safe, including our most vulnerable.
You’ve been absolute champions.
As we enter a new year with new hopes and opportunities, our government is ready to work with you to ensure all of our communities bounce back stronger than ever before.
Until then, please keep asking people to follow the public health measures.
We must all stay home, stay safe, and save lives.
Thank you and God bless the people of Ontario.
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