Premier looks to the municipal sector to get back all the money the Liberals spent when they created an $11 billion deficit.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 20th, 2019



When the Premier tried to download the costs of a number of services onto the municipalities some time ago, there was an uproar – they had already set their budgets and their tax rates – wasn’t possible to change at that point.

The Ford government relented; everyone knew they would be introducing the plans again – and they did – yesterday at the AMO conference taking place in Ottawa.

Child-care and health-care advocates are slamming the provincial government’s plan to go ahead with some of its controversial municipal funding cuts next year.

Despite some extra time before funding is slashed, the news was not welcome.

The cuts are real and they create “uncertainty, stress for families and sort of chaos at the municipal level across the province as they try to scramble to figure out what’s happening.”

Ford at AMO Aug 2019

Premier Doug Ford addressing the municipal sector on Monday.

Ford said some of this year’s planned cuts — to public health, child care and land ambulance funding — will take effect Jan. 1.

“We recognize our government moved quickly when we came into office to address our inherited challenges. But we’ve listened to you.”

Moody’s, the bond rating service, said the cuts will blow $2-billion hole in municipal budgets which will raise the cost of borrowing. Halton Regional Carr might not be able to brag about having the great credit rating the Region has had for more than a decade.

Prior to the changes announced by the Ford government last spring, municipalities had varying public health cost-sharing arrangements with the province — with Ontario paying 100 per cent or 75 per cent in some cases.
The new plan will see all municipalities pay 30 per cent of public health care costs.

The chair of Toronto’s board of health, said “officials are trying to figure out what the full financial impact of the cuts will be — but he was adamant that the cuts would amount to tens of millions of dollars annually for the city.”

Halton Regional office aerial

Aerial view of the Regional offices located in Oakville.

Commissioners at the Region will be running their numbers when they get back to their offices – it is not going to be a pretty picture.

“As is too often the case with this provincial government, they make announcements first and provide details later.”

Starting on Jan. 1, municipalities will also have to pay 20 per cent of the cost of creating new child-care spaces, which the province previously fully funded.

Some cuts to funding for administrative child-care costs are being delayed until 2021 and others are being delayed to 2022.

Ford also said land ambulance funding will increase by four per cent.

The province is dealing with an $11 billion deficit, the highest sovereign debt of any government.

Just about all the Mayors “recognize and appreciate the challenges the government of Ontario faces in getting its deficit under control”. However, this must be done in a prudent, collaborative manner that does not impact the services that people rely on each and every day.”

A former city of Toronto Councillor said: “Make no mistake, these cuts will hurt people. They are short-sighted and they are wrong.”

Regional Chair and the CAO are going to have to confer with their commissioners to figure out how to deal with the funding cuts announced by the Ford government.

Gary Carr

Regional Chair Gary Carr

Jane MacCaskill Region

Regional CAO Jane MacCaskill

For weeks, the premier and his cabinet ministers had defended the cuts as necessary to tackle an urgent financial situation and said municipalities needed to do their part, as the recipients of a large share of provincial dollars. The government is trying to eliminate an $11.7 billion deficit.

AMO president Jamie McGarvey, who introduced Ford at the event Monday, said municipalities understand the province’s goals and urged the government to work with civic leaders.

“We cannot achieve these things with abrupt, unilateral changes and it will take more than simple belt tightening to make things better,” McGarvey said. “Working together, we can avoid unnecessary turmoil, and respect the essential front line-services that our governments deliver.”

The services that are going to be hit by funding cuts are for the most part delivered by the Regional government.

The tax rate that is set by a municipality includes taxes levied by the Region and the Boards of Education.

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