January 10, 2008 / 12:44 AM / 10 years ago

New Ontario holiday to add costs for towns and cities

TORONTO (Reuters) - Towns and cities in Ontario are looking forward to a new midwinter day off, but they expect to be hit with extra costs because of the Family Day holiday.

The new holiday -- a promise made in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s successful re-election bid in October -- will take place on the third Monday of February.

It’s aimed at offering some relief for the “winter blues” in the long stretch between the New Year and the promise of spring at Easter.

The mayor of the small town of Wawa, where winters can seem very long and very cold, says he welcomes the extra day off, but worries about added costs for his municipality.

“Winters are long up here, so I guess from a personal point of view the idea of that is not objectionable. I think from a financial standpoint there’s going to be a cost to it,” Mayor Howard Whent said in a phone interview.

Municipalities will face extra costs to maintain essential services such as clearing roads, police, firefighters and ambulance services.

Once a vibrant iron mining town, Wawa is now struggling with a downturn in the forestry industry. It was recently dealt a big blow when pulp and paper giant Weyerhaeuser eliminated 150 jobs at a local mill.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario says Family Day will add to the financial pressures facing many of Ontario’s towns and cities, big and small.

In Toronto, which is already feeling a revenue squeeze due to rising costs for transit and social services, officials estimate the holiday will cost taxpayers an additional $2.3 million on an annual budget of nearly $8 billion.

Reporting by Lionel Perron; Editing Rob Wilson

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