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Canada pouring billions into COVID-ravaged provincial governments

Niagara Region

The Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments are pouring billions of dollars into local governments buried in the financial turmoil of COVID-19 to prevent catastrophic effects on local governments.

Like all Canadian governments, the Niagara Region has been hit with the worst of both worlds: rising costs to deal with the virus and plummeting revenues because of the virus.

Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley points out he has to have a balanced budget, as do the 12 local governments within the region, like Fort Erie and Niagara Falls. Canada and Ontario don't have a balanced budget requirement and are even further away than expected coming into the year because of the virus.

Bradley said the problem became clear early on.

"We would have a diminished revenue stream and, second, we would have increased costs incurred as a result of COVID-19. So we were looking at millions of dollars and in our particular case, overall, in Niagara, counting our local muncipalities and ourselves, $49 million," he said.

The schools within the region are independent, dealing only with the province. They are also being helped by higher levels of government, with the federal government putting $2 billion into schools last week.

The cash to governments is highly targeted, with Canada and Ontario even finding extra cash to avoid cutbacks in Niagara's public transit, which has been expanding to meet needs.

"We had particularly university students and community college students who frequently and extensively used public transit," said bradley, "and, of course, those numbers have dropped drastically as a result of COVID-19 and the general public not taking those services."

Bradley said the number of COVID-19 cases is way down, and strong enforcement of mandatory mask rules is designed to get business and taxes back up and running.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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