With the provincial government on a proverbial warpath when it comes to deficit reduction, Premier Doug Ford is dangling another carrot in an effort to get other governing bodies to help find those savings themselves.
Ford announced in Ajax during a Chambers of Commerce business luncheon that the province will provide $7.35 million for large urban municipalities and district school boards interested in conducting line-by-line reviews to identify potential savings, while maintaining vital front-line services.
The money will come from the Audit and Accountability Fund.
“Our government was elected to fix 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, put the province on a path to balance and protect services like health care and education,” Ford said. “But the previous Liberal government was using the credit card to pay the mortgage and, with interest payments costing our province $36 million a day, we can’t do it alone. We campaigned on finding four cents for every provincial dollar spent and we are asking our partners to do the same.”
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The Tories recently unveiled a budget that they say will eliminate the deficit by the 2022-2023 fiscal year, with a provincial debt currently over $347 billion.
Ford’s government has come under fire in recent weeks over announced cuts after they unveiled the budget that have been heavily criticized by those municipalities and school boards that he now wants to give money to help them find efficiencies. The government announced funding reductions after many municipalities had already passed their operating budgets for this year.
The Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO), a group of municipal leaders representing cities with over 100,000 residents, recently released a statement on how Ford’s cuts would affect key services in their respective areas, such as public health, policing, library services, child care and flood management.
“We support the Province’s efforts to get its budget deficit under control. But it cannot do so on the backs of local taxpayers, without consultation,” Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, the chair of LUMCO, said. The mayors asked Ford to postpone the implementation of funding cuts to next year so they have the time to plan and budget for said cuts.
As for the school boards, the relations between them and the Ford government are not getting any better. The Peel School Board trustees have been having a war of words with their local MPPs of the area over education funding, with the provincial education minister even accusing the trustees of ‘fear mongering’.
With kind of rhetoric flying around these days when it comes to Ford’s post budget cuts, the idea of taking money from the province in order for cities, towns and school boards to find efficiencies themselves may have skeptical reactions wondering what the catch is if they get this money.
The chaotic way the cuts were rolled out after the budget, with seemingly little consistency and purpose behind it, is what is unnerving service providers as they wonder just what Ford is really up to.
What do you think of Premier Ford’s proposal to give money for cities and school boards to do reviews to find efficiencies in their own budgets?