Premier Doug Ford recently announced that there will be no cuts to public health, child care, and land ambulances across Ontario this year.
Prior to this announcement, the Ford government cut funding for early years/childcare programs by $6.1 million, housing and homeless programs by $1.3 million, prisoner transport by $600,000, natural hazards funding by $700,000 and Metrolinx funding for smart commute by $300,000.
And earlier this year, the Ontario government also planned to merge the 59 local ambulance services and public health units in the province into just 10 units.
However, after many protests, the government has chosen to hold the cuts.
On May 27, 2019, Ford wrote a letter to the municipal mayors stating that the provincial government will maintain support for the services.
This is a decision that many people, including Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward, may be pleased with.
“I am pleased to acknowledge the provincial government’s announcement that they will be cancelling the recently announced retroactive in-year cuts to municipalities and maintaining the pre-budget funding levels for public health, child care and ground ambulance,” Meed Ward said in a statement.
According to a press release from Meed Ward, Ontario’s big-city mayors met in Guelph at a meeting of LUMCO (Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario) to discuss a joint strategy to respond to the previously announced provincial cuts.
This meeting was held on May 24 and John Tory, Mayor of Toronto, was in attendance.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Steve Clark, was also in attendance for part of the meeting.
“He heard our concerns and took our unanimously passed joint statement back to the premier,” Meed Ward said in a statement.
The key messages from the meeting, according to Meed Ward’s release, are as follows:
- “We want to be at the table with the province to work together to address their fiscal challenges in ways that minimize impacts on our residents. “
- “If the province does not change course, or even delay implementation until 2020 so that we can adjust for our next budget cycle, municipalities will be forced to consider tax increases, service cuts, or raiding reserves.”
“On behalf of the city of Burlington, I commend Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister Steve Clark for listening to the concerns raised by mayors on behalf of our residents across the province,” Meed Ward said in a statement.
Meed Ward continued to explain that the cuts that were originally announced would have hurt local communities, and put cities’ finances at risk.
However, despite these cuts being put on hold, Meed Ward has noted that Burlington may not be ‘out of the woods’ yet.
“The delay in these cuts is helpful, but some of these cuts continue to be inappropriate to download to the municipal tax base,” Meed Ward said in a statement. “The province cannot balance its own books on the backs of municipal property taxes, especially when they will negatively impact front-line services. Municipalities only receive nine cents on every tax dollar collected by our governments.”
“We will only make substantial fiscal progress by ensuring savings are found by the levels of government that spend the most (federal and provincial),” Meed Ward continued. “We encourage the province to look at their own administrative efficiencies rather than cutting front line services delivered at the municipal level.”
Additionally, as noted by Meed Ward, the province has asked municipalities to help find additional savings and efficiencies, announcing an ‘Audit and Accountability Fund’, to support line-by-line third-party reviews of their operations.
Burlington has completed a line-by-line review as part of the city’s 2019 budget process.
As a result, the city’s approved 2019 budget saw an initial reduction of $1.15 million, with city council trimming an additional $1.6 million while still investing in Burlington’s infrastructure, local transit, tree planting, and community services.
“The end result was our ability to pass the lowest tax increase at the city level in eight years,” Meed Ward said in a statement. “We would be more than happy to share our best practices with the province.”
While Meed Ward notes that Burlington welcomes Ford’s announcement to hold the cuts, she notes that changes in other pieces of legislation may negatively affect the city’s ability to be financially sustainable, and provide for community services.
“We are heartened by the willingness of the Province to listen to municipalities and reverse course, and we look forward to additional conversations on the outstanding matters that have yet to be addressed by today’s announcement that create costs without benefits to municipalities and our residents,” Meed Ward said in a statement.
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