It's been a crazy start to the provincial election campaign. Steep increases in water bills also have ratepayers upset.

Still, the minister responsible for Municipal Affairs, Bill Mauro, isn't backing down. He says councils can now get projects done, without going to taxpayers for money.

The minister noted 50 per cent of the cost can now come from the federal government, 25 per cent can come out of the province's $270 million fund, and the remaining 25 per cent can come from Ontario's community infrastructure fund.

The increases in water bills -- 10 per cent for five years in Kenora -- were forced upon council's by Queen's Park. The province decided reserves for maintenance were insufficient, due to tax holidays taken by many councils over the years.

Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield echoed the thoughts of many, when he took the premier to task for spending promises.

"We have still got a massive, massive infrastructure deficit. So, how can you afford all these new programs, when we can't even fund the stuff that we need today," he asked.

Municipalities have proposed a one per cent increase in the Harmonized Sales Tax, in order to reduce the deficit. But none of the parties have agreed to it.

Nevertheless, Premier Kathleen Wynne stuck to her guns last week, as she defended her decision. In response to the mayor's question, Wynne said she doesn't want to increase the HST by a percentage point, in order to pay for roads and sewers, because it would have an impact on other programs.

"That takes a billion or so dollars out of the provincial treasury -- which means health care, which means education -- and those things that we have to provide province-wide," she said in response.

Persistence being a virtue, Canfield offered his assistance with helping the province fund local projects.

"Well, as of Dec. 1st, I won't be running again, so I might be able to help you with that. I'm out for hire," he said with a bit of a grin.

A provincial election is set for June 7. Municipal elections are in late October.

For more information:

Canfield considering retirement

AMO - Local share snapshot