Affordability, Community Engagement Top of Mind for Zanth in 2024

Par Joseph Coppolino
Affordability, Community Engagement Top of Mind for Zanth in 2024
Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth, building off the successes and challenges of the year passed, has high hopes for 2024. (Photo : File)

Looking back on the year that was, Mayor Mario Zanth said there is plenty Clarence-Rockland has to be proud of – and plenty more to improve upon in 2024. 

Last year was a challenging year for many municipalities. Rising interest rates, provincial government funding cuts and a murky economic outlook made for difficult decisions, particularly when it came to housing and services. 

AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which represents nearly all the more than 440 municipalities across the province, stated that the year prior, 2022, municipalities spent $3.8 billion more than they received in areas of provincial responsibility (housing, social services, paramedics, long-term care and childcare, to name a few). 

The result across the board was an increase in taxes in 2023 and the same goes for 2024, as was the case in Clarence-Rockland. 

“Individuals are going through such a tough time right now with interest rates, cost of living, rent, affordability,” said Zanth. “And while we don’t directly control those things as a city, we have to be mindful of them.” 

That being said, Zanth also acknowledged that the growth of the city can’t be stopped. 

“We have to make sure the city has the funds it needs for tomorrow,” he added. “That’s where essentially every municipality is across the UCPR and the province. They are all around a four per cent tax increase.” 

Regardless, Zanth believes the municipality is heading in the right direction and growing to serve its community. The beginning of the process to start development on the waterfront, progress on bringing a new tennis and recreation facility to town and establishing a task force to determine the future of the Jean-Marc Lalonde arena have all been positive steps in 2023. 

“Those are successes that prove we’re moving in the right direction as a city,” he said. 

On the other hand, communication and engagement with the public lacked, according to Zanth. For the city’s “Talktober” outreach event in October, only 150 people completed the survey out of a population of nearly 25,000 – and for the in-person events, just 70 people showed up. 

“We need to have more surveys, we need to have more interaction, and we need to better gauge their views,” said Zanth of the city’s connection with residents. 

“City council are the ones that go door to door to hear what people have to say. We have to be able to take that and translate it into something that the city will be able to implement,” he said. 

Big Things for 2024 

In 2024, Zanth has his eyes set on a number of big-ticket items. The uploading of County Road 17 to the province remains high on the list of priorities, as well as ensuring the province and federal government – through the United Counties of Prescott and Russel (UCPR) Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus – fund affordable and social housing in the region. A shuttle to the new train station at Trim Road in Orleans (once completed), and the extension of Baseline Road passed Canaan Road through to Orleans are also transportation solutions Zanth hopes to see progress on in 2024. 

Additionally, discussions with the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital (HGH) for an urgent care solution in Clarence-Rockland will continue in January.  

“We need to be better aligned for the challenges that are coming tomorrow, versus those that were here yesterday,” said Zanth. “As the city continues to grow, we need to anticipate residents’ needs and not just be reactive. That’s what we are looking forward to in 2024.” 

Partager cet article