Ford refuses to back down on funding cuts, says Toronto city hall made up of 'spendaholics'
Chris Fox, CTV News Toronto
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019 1:44PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 22, 2019 7:10PM EDT
The city is launching a petition to protest the tens of millions of dollars in provincial funding cuts that were imposed retroactively but Premier Doug Ford is refusing to back down, telling CP24 that the administration at city hall is made up of a bunch of “spendaholics” who are unwilling to look for savings in a “bloated bureaucracy.”
Mayor John Tory held a news conference at city hall on Wednesday morning to announce the launch of the petition.
He called the Ford government’s decision to retroactively slash funding for public health and child care subsidies, among other things, “a ridiculous way to do business” and warned that the cuts could put Toronto’s prosperity “at risk.”
He said that his hope is that the petition will put pressure on the 11 PC MPPs in Toronto who have so far remained silent on the cuts to speak up.
If they don’t and the cuts go ahead, Tory said that the city could be forced to cut vital services or raise taxes mid-year.
“I think that those MPPs who fail to have the courage to speak up and instead give these sort of scripted explanations, they are going to pay a heavy price for that next election because people remember that,” he said. “They don’t necessarily remember every policy position you take but they certainly remember when you fail to speak up for them when their interests are being directly affected.”
Cuts could cost city $177 M in 2019
A report by city manager Chris Murray that was released earlier this month said that the combined impact of the cuts and program changes outlined in the provincial budget will be at least $177.65 million in 2019 alone.
That includes a $65 million reduction in funding to Toronto Public Health and a $84.8 million cut to the budget of Children’s Services that Murray says could result in the elimination of 6,166 child care fee subsidies.
The province is also cancelling a planned increase in the municipal share of the gas tax. That will cost the city $1.1 billion over the next decade, about $585 million of which had already been committed to the TTC’s state of good repair program.
“The biggest mystery of all to me is why they (the Ford government) won’t accept a reasonable offer made in good faith to sit down and discuss their financial problems and how municipalities can be partners with them in trying to address those in a way that is going to have the least impact on people who need support,” Tory said. “I guess it is easier to operate by issuing edicts out of Queen’s Park and to strong-arm your MPP’s into remaining silent while you savage the programs that their constituents rely on but that’s why I find it increasingly mysterious as to why these MPPs won’t themselves speak up and say ‘You know what, this just isn’t right.’”
Ford says Tory is being disingenuous
In an interview with CP24 on Wednesday afternoon, Ford said that it is not sustainable for the province to continue spending at the rate it has with debt servicing costs now costing taxpayers $13.3 billion annually.
He said that there are savings to be found in Toronto’s budget and accused Tory of showing “weak leadership.”
“When you have a $13.5 billion budget and you can look the camera square in the eyes and say we can’t find efficiencies in Toronto, something is wrong with the administration at city hall,” he said.
Tory has repeatedly criticized Ford for imposing the cuts retroactively without consultation and refusing to sit down with the city after the fact. The premier, however, told CP24 that his staff is in contact with Tory’s staff on a regular basis and accused him of being “disingenuous.”
“He says that he has two options. He is either going to raise taxes, which is absolutely ridiculous, or he is going to make cuts,” he said. “We have a third solution. Why don’t you work collaboratively with us and find one per cent (savings)?”
Province has offered money for audits
While Ford has so far refused to back down from the cuts he did offer municipalities $7.35 million in provincial funding to help pay for audits of their books on Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Tory said that he would be open to bringing in an auditor but believes that doing so will be of little benefit unless the province is willing to work with the city, particularly as it pertains to the cuts that were made retroactive to April 1.
“I am not rejecting their audit offer; I am just saying that by itself it can be seen as nothing more than a kind of PR gesture and even when you examine it as that it is one that rings pretty hollow when you look at the fact that the work in question couldn’t get done until much later in the year, thereby compounding the problems we face,” he said.
It should be noted that the city did bring in KPMG to take a look at its spending under then mayor Rob Ford.
That audit, which cost $3.5 million, found that 88 per cent of the money the City of Toronto spends each year amounts to “mandatory” or “essential” services.