What People Are Saying About Doug Ford's Cuts to Municipalities
It was only a matter of time before cuts to municipalities were back on the table.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa that there will be ‘transitional funding’ available when municipal cuts come January 1, 2020. These cuts were originally scheduled retroactively for this year, but were held off after strong blowback from municipal leaders.
The measure will see all municipalities, including Toronto, pay 30 per cent of the public health-care costs and 20 per cent of the cost of creating new child-care spaces by January 1, a service previously fully funded by the province. Officials from Toronto said that number in their city is as high as 50 per cent.
Ford also announced increased funding by four per cent for land ambulance services for 2019 and the funding will see an increase next year, while confirming there will be no changes to the structure of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund for 2020.
Reactions to the confirmation of pending cuts to municipalities has ranged from heavily critical to “cautiously optimistic”. The Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) put out this statement in response.
“I am encouraged by Premier Ford’s comments to wants to work hand in hand with municipalities and put cities in the driver’s seat when it comes to local services,” said LUMCO Chair and Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, saying his members are cautiously optimistic that the transitional funding will soften the blow from the funding cuts come 2020.
“We appreciate the transitional funding, but mayors are concerned that we will still face significant cuts to public health and child care in 2021,” Guthrie concluded, and that sentiment was echoed publicly by at least one prominent member of LUMCO.
“It’s disappointing because this is still a significant cut and there is no way around reducing essential services, such as prison transport. When you are telling municipalities to cut core services, that’s really not cutting any fat,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said recently during a radio interview, citing how the city did a value for money audit a year ago and found only a few opportunities for savings.
Opposition politicians were quick to pounce on the announced cuts coming next year. Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said the transitional funding is only a short term solution, a stop gap before municipalities will have to face the choice of either service cuts or increasing property taxes.
“I’m disappointed that (Ford) continues to put the squeeze on them, using funding cuts as an easy way to balance his own books. We cannot play around with issues like vaccinations, food safety and disease control. It is very problematic if the province no longer sees public health as its responsibility,” Schreiner said, saying Ford is just ‘passing the buck’ to municipalities.
Alvin Tedjo, who is running to be the next Ontario Liberal leader, surmised alternative savings that could be found besides ‘cutting’ public health and child care.
Toronto MPP Michael Coteau, also running to be Liberal leader, offered a ‘new deal’ of sorts to handle the modern challenges and realities cities face, such as a reassessment of which level of government is responsible for which service as well as creating ‘charter cities’ to “better reflect current reality and recognize and embrace the vectors of future trends to ensure that Ontario’s large urban municipalities are equipped to manage their continued growth and change.”
Having been a former Toronto city councillor but attempting to implement a cost cutting agenda during his time in that office alongside his late brother the former mayor, Rob Ford, Doug Ford seems hell bent on expanding that agenda to all Ontario municipalities, effectively forcing their hand when it comes to ‘finding more efficiencies’ with this latest announcement of funding cuts.
If you don’t think the news about these particular cuts are that important, either because you don’t care or you’re more affected by other cuts to programs such as autism or education, remember that virtually 90 per cent of the government services one typically encounters on a regular basis come from the local level.
Keep that in mind next time you notice the snow not being plowed on time the transit perhaps even more late and public health or child care becomes more expensive.
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