Municipalities will receive 'transitional funding' from province amid budget cuts
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is giving municipalities “transitional funding” next year, even as the province downloads public health and child care costs onto cities.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement to a packed room of 2,000 mayors, councillors and policy advisors at the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa on Monday.
Ford said the funding will give municipalities more time to search for savings, while also helping protect “the future of public services.”
“So you can continue to deliver important services people rely on every day, including public health and child care,” Ford said in a mid-morning speech.
While Ford provided few details on the transitional funding, sources in the Premier’s office said the province is trying to limit the financial hit to municipalities, especially when it comes to public health.
The government will standardize the cost sharing arrangement of local public health units – the province will pay 70 per cent starting in 2020, while municipalities will carry 30 per cent of the burden.
However, government sources said if the public health costs borne by the municipalities were to rise by more than 10 per cent, the province would provide funding to offset the additional amount.
“It provides them more of a cushion for those changes,” the source said.
The costs of creating new child care spaces – currently fully bankrolled by the province – will also be split in 2020, with municipalities taking over 20 per cent, while the province pays the rest.
The government said that cost sharing agreement will eventually grow to a 50/50 split by 2021.
Downloading costs is a top concern for the representatives of 444 municipalities at the AMO conference, with many expressing apprehension about the net effect to their bottom lines.
“We’re a little nervous,” Jerry Smith, a councillor with the Township of Perth East, said.
“We’re not 100 per cent sure of what is going to happen, we’ve had so much downloaded to the municipalities.”
Karen Redman, the chair of Waterloo Region, told CTV News Toronto that” tough discussions” will have to be had ahead of the next budget period and the mayor of Barrie said that he plans on showing the impact downloading will have on taxpayers.
“I would like to do that on the tax bill … where we make it very clear and accountable where the costs are coming from,” said Jeff Lehman.
Other municipalities are welcoming the funding.
“I think we will resolve many issues. I think they want to resolve the issues,” said Paula Assaly the mayor of the Town of Hawkesbury.
Ford stressed that the current fiscal situation of the province, which is carrying a $10.3 billion deficit, is his top priority.
“We can’t continue throwing money at the problem as our predecessors did into top-down, big government schemes,” Ford said.
“That is neither compassionate or sustainable.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement on Monday saying that he appreciates “the government’s efforts over the past few months to listen to municipalities,” but that getting the deficit under control must be done in a “collaborative manner.”