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In a recent paper co-written with Gabriel Eidelman

We found that cost sharing between the province and municipalities for these services created potential inefficiencies and accountability issues. By examining who does what in these areas, the province and municipalities could find ways to fund, plan, and deliver these vital services even more effectively.

Transit offers another example where important changes could be made. Currently, funding to operate and maintain transit in Ontario comes from fare revenues and municipal subsidies. The result is a significant strain on municipal finances. As Matti Siemiatycki and Drew Fagan note in a recent paper, we need all orders of government to come together to provide stable transit funding, not only for new subways and LRT lines, but also for operations and maintenance.

The COVID-19 crisis has in many ways brought out the best in all our governments and shown how well they can work together. This collaboration needs to continue, particularly to alleviate the effect of the crisis on local finances.

The job doesn’t end there, though. We came into this crisis with resilient public services and institutions, and strong municipalities. We can go into the next crisis even stronger. To do so, we have to learn from this experience, start difficult conversations about who does what, and make the necessary changes and investments.

Enid Slack is the director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Tomas Hachard is the manager of programs and research at IMFG.