Premier Ford backs off retroactive funding cuts

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For this year, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has reversed previously announced cuts to municipal funding including childcare, public health and EMS, but future cuts will continue as planned.

The Progressive Conservative government has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks over funding changes first revealed in its spring budget. The City of Toronto has said it’s losing millions in funding for everything from public health and childcare to paramedics.

More than 31,000 people in Toronto signed a petition demanding the province reverse the cuts, which were revealed after the city passed its 2019 budget.

The cuts, combined with the cancellation of an increase to municipalities’ share of the gas tax, mean local governments would be out well over half a billion dollars annually.

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The total cuts were expected to amount to $177 million in 2019.

In addition to direct cuts, that calculation also included a proposed shift in the existing cost-sharing model. Under the current system, programs delivered by Toronto Public Health are funded 75 per cent by the province and 25 per cent by the city.

The Tories planned to reduce that split to 60-40, then to 50-50 in 2021. The government now says it will maintain the current model while municipalities review their books.

In a statement, Toronto Mayor John Tory thanked Ford for reversing the cuts, adding that both governments must work together more closely before Ontario’s 2020 budget.

While Ford said he’s still calling on municipalities to reduce their spending, he acknowledged some will need more time to do so.

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But by next year given that amalgamation of several municipalities could become a reality, there could well be fewer mayors and independent cities and more than just funding models are going to change. -CINEWS

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