Ontario takes a step toward municipal funding cuts

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The provincial government has indicated it insists on going ahead with some of its controversial municipal funding cuts next year.

Premier Doug Ford made an announcement on the cuts Monday at a gathering of municipal leaders in Ottawa.

The Progressive Conservative government tried to force retroactive funding cuts this year but had to cancel them after municipal leaders complained their annual budgets had already passed.

Ford said some of this year’s planned cuts to public health, child care and land ambulance funding takes effect January 1.

“We recognize our government moved quickly when we came into office to address our inherited challenges,” Ford said at the gathering of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). “But we’ve listened to you.”

Critics warn that cuts will blow $2-billion hole in municipal budgets.

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 — including Toronto — pay 30 per cent of public health care costs. Under the initial plan, Toronto would have been on the hook for 50 per cent of the cost.

Starting on January 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.

Toronto Mayor John Tory had warned the public health cuts would affect services like children’s breakfast programs, vaccination programs and water quality testing, and the child-care cuts would jeopardize subsidies.

In the midst of taking heat from municipalities over the cuts this spring, Ford announced up to $7.35 million in total for audits to help them find savings in their budgets. Ford’s office said Monday that 34 of 39 eligible municipalities took the province up on its offer.

All school boards were also eligible to apply, but the premier’s office said only two did, so the deadline for them to apply is being extended to August 30. -CINEWS

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