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Durham Region must step up

(Cartoon by George Longley)

It’s that time of year again.

No, not the holiday season, but budget deliberation season.

Both the region and city are set to take a deep dive into discussions of what their financial priorities will be over the next year.

The City of Oshawa’s total budget is dwarfed by that of Durham Region, but both entities will have equally fulsome and heated debates over the coming months.

With the regional municipality system, there are certain areas the city must rely on the region’s assistance for, such as affordable housing, some roads and other services.

So with a recent update showing Durham Region has approximately $2.6 billion in its reserves, it’s understandable why some city councillors have been clamouring for the upper-tier to open its wallet.

The state of Simcoe Street South from the downtown core to the waterfront has been described by some as “deplorable.”

While that may not be the best phrasing to use, it is apparent the road needs work, and that is a regional responsibility.

It’s truly exciting Durham Region is seeing such tremendous growth in many areas, including Oshawa’s north end, but the older, more traditional neighbourhoods cannot be put to the side.

As pointed out by Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson, improvements to newer roads can often be supported by development charges, an advantage the region and city don’t have when it comes to roads in existing residential areas.

While in no way should the region just begin to burn through its reserves, having billions in its coffers, there should be some room to fix up some of these roads that are used by taxpayers who have lived here for years and years.

On the topic of homelessness, the City of Oshawa and its council often faces the brunt of criticism for the lack of affordable housing in the area, but that is the fiscal responsibility of the region.

To be fair, the problem goes higher than the region, as it is the province which determines funding for affordable housing.

But with so much money set aside, there could be ways for regional council to decide it won’t wait for the provincial and federal governments to take action, and be a leader on the matter.