Ford says he is reversing cuts to municipalities this year
Premier Doug Ford is backing down on more than $150 million in cuts affecting the city of Toronto, after a weeks-long budget battle between City Hall and Queen’s Park.
Ford made the surprise announcement outside his Queen’s Park office Monday, alongside Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark.
“We’ve come up with a conclusion that we’re going to work together,” Ford told reporters. “We’re going to maintain funding through this year.”
Ford says the decision was made over the weekend after Clark met with the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) on Friday and was handed a scathing review of the government’s financial changes.
“The most important thing is we’re a government that listens,” Ford said. “Are we right a thousand per cent of the time? I wish we were right a thousand per cent of the time.”
Ford’s government was entangled in a weeks-long battle with municipalities province-wide, which began to revolt after being told they would be forced to swallow budgets cuts retroactive to the beginning of the year – months after municipalities had already passed their 2019 budgets.
Cities, including Toronto, warned the government that in-year budget cuts would affect vaccinations, child nutrition programs, subsidies for childcare spaces, and ambulance services.
Mayor John Tory launched a petition demanding the cuts be reversed while also going door-to-door in Progressive Conservative MPP Robin Martin’s riding over the weekend to alert residents of the cuts.
Tory spoke with the Premier just before the decision was made public and says he “reiterated” the city’s willingness to look for savings.
“I recognize and appreciate the challenges the Government of Ontario faces getting its budget deficit under control, and I support its intention to do so,” Tory said in a statement.
“However, this must be done in a prudent, collaborative manner that does not impact the vital services that people in Toronto rely on each and every day. This can only be done if we work together.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the cuts would have been “devastating” and the government is budgeting in reverse.
“This is a government that acts and then gets backlash and then pulls back and then decides to listen. They’re going about it completely backwards.”
Cuts to be deffered
While municipal funding will be restored for the current year Ford says the government will still be looking to municipalities to eliminate one per cent of their budgets next year.
Ford acknowledged, however, that municipalities needed “more runway” to find those savings.
The province has offered cities and school boards a little over $7 million to pay for line-by-line audits to hunt for savings.
Tory says the city is looking to collaborate with the province to find those savings.
Here’s how the city of Toronto would have been impacted by the cuts:
- $65 million for Toronto Public Health (more than $1 billion over 10 years, affecting services like vaccinations and child nutrition programs)
- $84.8 million for Children’s Services (threatening much-needed subsidies to more than 6,100 childcare spaces for families)
- $3.85 million a year for Toronto Paramedic Services (affecting ambulance wait times for an already critical service)