Second tax hike, service cuts are only options if PCs don’t reverse cuts: Budget Chief
Toronto City Council has called near-unanimously for the province to back down on retroactive cuts to the city budget.
In an emergency debate on Tuesday over the funding cuts that came after the city had already balanced its budget for the year, Toronto’s city manager acknowledged that services would suffer if Premier Doug Ford’s government didn’t change course.
“We’re finding ourselves between a rock and a rock,” said Chris Murray.
In recent weeks, Queen’s Park has slashed $177.65 million from the city’s 2019 budget, including cuts to Toronto Public Health, Children’s Services, and Toronto Paramedics Services. The move could jeopardize vaccination clinics, student nutrition programs, daycare subsidies, and ambulance response times, according to city councillors.
“It is clear that these cuts will hurt families,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “These cuts are carefully-crafted, an unfairly-harsh offensive against services needs by the residents of Toronto.”
With nearly $180 million to find mid-year, Toronto’s budget chief Gary Crawford conceded that the only option would be to cut services or raise taxes.
“I don’t think the Premier wants to raise taxes so I want to work with him,” said Crawford.
The Tory administration had promised a rate-of-inflation tax increase, but city staff estimate that residents could face up to an additional six per cent hike if tax revenue was needed to fully offset the provincial cuts.
The motion presented at the emergency debate calls for the reversal of the retroactive cuts and asks staff to report back on the impacts the cuts will have to city services.
Michael Ford, the Premier’s nephew, was the only councillor to vote against the mayor’s motion to ask the province to reverse its sudden cuts.
Michael Ford told CTV News Toronto that he did not consider his position to be an awkward one.
“I think we all have to be a part of working together in finding efficiencies,” he said.