Since the start of the corona-virus pandemic and Canada went into “Lockdown” mode, many programs and subsidies are initiated by the three levels of governments to help us through this very difficult time. There are many newspaper articles detailing the measures introduced by the Federal and Provincial governments, all of which will help to alleviate difficulties experienced by the average Canadian.
So, did the municipal governments do anything for their residents? What are the responses from the municipal governments? How have they been coping with the pandemic? Let us look at the City of Markham and see what they have done.
On March 13, the City of Markham closed all its recreation centres and libraries. Markham Council Meetings, General Committee, Development Services Committee, Public Hearings, Committee of Adjustment and all Advisory Committee meetings are also cancelled.
On March 19, the Ontario Provincial Government allowed municipalities to hold council meetings through teleconferencing. Electronic council and committee meetings was prohibited under the Municipal Act, 2001 which requires the “physical presence” of members to achieve quorum. Markham Council is set to hold its first council meeting through videoconferencing on Friday, March 27, 2020.
On March 27, Markham Council voted to eliminate late payment charges on unpaid property taxes from April 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020. Markham Council also voted to eliminate the $50 stormwater charge per household, as well as the stormwater charge for industrial and commercial properties for this year. Council voted to defer the 2020 water rate increase of 7.8%, subject to approval by York Region. The Municipal Accommodation Tax will be suspended from April 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. As part of Markham’s economic recovery plan, Markham Council will assign the “Destination Markham Board” to lead a marketing strategy focused on promoting a “buy local, shop local and stay local” campaign.
April 13, Markham announced the launch of a new donation centre in Markham for the public. The Markham Cares Donation Centre will serve as a central receiving depot for personal and corporate donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) and necessary COVID-19 related supplies.
May 6, The Markham Fair, originally scheduled for Oct. 1-4, 2020 has been cancelled. The Fair has deep roots in the community, over its 175-year history it has overcome many challenges including world wars, depressions and the Spanish Flu. One of the largest and longest running fairs of its kind in Ontario, the fair is a non-profit organization driven by close to 1000 dedicated volunteers. This was a difficult but necessary decision made by the Markham Fair Board of Directors for the safety of visitors, volunteers, staff and vendors.
As we can see above, City of Markham did not do a whole lot for its residents. Markham residents are beginning to question if more can be done. Many feel that with the shutdown of the City's facilities, savings will be made with a skeleton crew. Others are questioning if any city staff are laid-off at all. No one at City Hall is prepared to give a definitive answer to these questions. Many residents want a refund on their taxes paid to the city since services are not provided to them for prolonged periods. The City of Markham needs to give the answers to its residents without delay.
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