Editorial: Progress is the expectation for 2024

In recent years, the first editorial of the calendar year has looked at what we at The Leader wanted to see happen in the next 12 months. Past editorials have sought a curbing of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery from the turbulence of a previous year, and a return to the semblance of normal we enjoyed before 2020. This year, our collective theme for 2024 is progress.

Canada continues to struggle with a slowly diminishing inflation rate. The economic vice of higher interest rates and sky-high grocery prices continues to clamp down on families large and small. Government action has produced little progress requiring communities to assist. In 2024, there must be progress to providing relief for all Canadians from inflation. While there is some personal responsibility required for Canadians that overspent when interest rates were cheaper and now are struggling to deal with higher rates, inflation pressures on the basics – food, housing, and utilities – require substantive progress on this front this year.

Ontario has led the country in economic growth with new investment by companies and spending by the provincial government. This has led to more jobs in critical areas for Ontarians – except in Eastern Ontario. For there to be progress in 2024, Ontario’s leaders must remember that province exists east of the line between Ottawa and Brockville. These areas lost a substantial number of jobs in the past 30 years. As the progress for new manufacturing plants and economic growth continues into 2024, the east must be part of that progress.

The past two years has seen SDG Counties council pass budgets with an average yearly tax increase of four per cent. Those budget increases helped pay for bridge rehabilitations, road improvements, and other capital projects. It has also paid for new hirings and more equipment. Still, to afford a major capital project – the reconstruction of County Road 20 – the 174 year old Counties will borrow for the first time in 2024. Progress for this level of government and its leaders is to consider balancing the needs and wants with a focus on keeping tax increases low.

South Dundas has seen a number of positive announcements in 2023 but few shovels in the ground. There has been a lot of study and little action on many key issues. There has been high tax increases but little to show for those extra costs to residents. More than a year into the council term, there is still no strategic plan to follow. Progress in South Dundas will take a few paths. The strategic plan must be made public so residents know the direction council wants to take. There must be progress in getting announced residential, commercial, and industrial projects underway so that the tax base may grow to assist with paying for the many needs in the municipality. And when considering budgets, staff and council must be mindful that high tax increases are unsustainable. Getting to living within ones means in South Dundas is progress.

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