Toronto mayor says local MPPs are misleading voters over ‘massive’ public health cuts
|Toronto Star 13 May 2019 at 18:10|
Toronto Progressive Conservative MPPs are misleading their constituents over the size of “massive” Ford government cuts to public health and other services, Mayor John Tory says.
Tory made the accusation Monday morning, reacting to a story in which the Star canvassed most of Premier Doug Ford’s Toronto caucus about deep budget cuts for public health, child care and more that the city manager says will cost Toronto at least $178 million this year alone.
Funding specifically to provide subsidized child care for low-income parents, is taking a $65-million hit, jeopardizing more than 6,000 daycare spots, the city says.
“There’s no truth to saying there’s going to be 6,000 child care spots closed,” Willowdale MPP Stan Cho told the Star last week, supporting the Ford cuts. “We’ve only asked them to cut administrative costs.”
Tory, whom Cho praised as a good mayor, bristled at that statement. Toronto spends about 6 per cent of its child-care budget on administration, well below the provincial 10-per-cent threshold, he said, and would agree to find ways to reduce it to 5 per cent if the other cuts were cancelled.
Ford’s MPPs “are not being straightforward in acknowledging that ... they imposed massive additional cuts on child care on top of that” request to reduce overhead, the mayor said.
“That s why we re going to continue to go door by door and street by street as we get organized to say ‘Even your own representative, unfortunately, has not acknowledged that they ve imposed big cuts, tens of millions of dollars on child care.’”
Tory is leading an escalating pressure campaign on Ford and his MPPs to cancel the cuts imposed without notice and after Ontario cities had already passed 2019 budgets relying on provincial funding.
At separate news conferences Monday, Toronto councillors kept up the pressure on the province on particular budget cuts.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam announced she will introduce a motion at city council calling on the province to reverse the proposed funding cuts to legal aid, which amount to a $133 million reduction to funding this year across Ontario. The motion also asks city council to express strong support for a robust, provincially funded legal aid program and express strong opposition to the cuts.
“It’s not too late … the premier and the province can actually do right by the people,” said Wong-Tam.
And Councillor Joe Cressy, chair of the health board, said that the province is engaging in “funny math,” a reference to the fact that while city officials have pegged the cost of cuts to public health at $1 billion over 10 years, the province has dismissed that figure as inaccurate. At that news conference, emergency room physician Dr. Raghu Venugopal decried the cuts to public health, and called for more public health care, not less.
They mayor denied there is a personal beef between him and Ford, whom Tory beat in the 2014 mayoral election. Tory noted he has the support of other mayors including Ottawa’s Jim Watson who told reporters Saturday that Ford’s cuts will throw his city’s finances into a “period of chaos.”
“Take (Watson’s) word if they don t want to take mine,” said Tory, who also accused Ford of “distraction” by pointing to his promised billions in long-term transit expansion. That money does nothing to replace “massive cuts” made by “stealth” to transfer payments, he said.
Toronto Tory MPPs say they stand by Ford’s budget cuts
Peel Region is the latest to tally the costs of Ford’s cuts. The region that includes Mississauga and Brampton now faces a $45.1 million shortfall over the next two years, the region’s director of business and financial planning said last week. That could cost the average homeowner $68 more each year in taxes.
“Council will need to make some very difficult decisions,” Norm Lum said at a meeting late last week. “These are incredibly challenging times.”
Ford and his government are showing no signs of backing down the wayafter intense pressure from parents furious with a new plan.
At Queen’s Park on Monday, Ford dismissed complaints over cuts from Toronto’s Public Health Board by calling the board a “bastion of lefties.” The premier recently said Tory has let Toronto’s finances “fester” and accused him of worrying more about the colour of the illuminated TORONTO sign in Nathan Phillips Square than in finding efficiencies for taxpayers.
Such Ford statements “are not to be taken seriously,” Tory told reporters, saying the city, which by law can’t run deficits, couldn’t pass budgets with low property tax hikes and program investment if Ford’s description was true.