Ford pulling back on municipal funding cuts

Photo of Doug Ford taken by Sarah Cowan, Blackburn News Chatham-Kent.

Municipalities facing funding cuts from the province can breathe a little easier, at least for now. Premier Doug Ford has cancelled retroactive funding cuts.

At a news conference on Monday morning, the premier said his is a government “that listens.” However, while the retroactive funding cuts have been scrapped, future funding reductions are expected to go ahead.

“We’ve come up with the conclusion that we are going to work together,” Ford said. “We’re willing to work with [mayors], give [municipalities] more runway and this will be a win-win for the taxpayers across Ontario.”

The announcement came in the wake of pressure from the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO), which called upon the provincial government to postpone cuts in order to determine a way that won’t affect essential services for residents. Cuts to public health, child care, and ground ambulance service were expected to total roughly $200 million.

“Everyone knows we aren’t in a good financial situation,” said Ford. “We don’t have the money, it’s very simple.”

The premier was accompanied by Minister of Municipal Affairs and Affordable Housing Steve Clark who said the May 24 message from the LUMCO was very clear.

“I didn’t want to give them any false hope, but I did indicate to them that I would continue to advocate for them,” said Clark.

Premier Ford recently announced the province is allocating $7.3 million to hire an independent auditor to look at all 444 municipalities in Ontario.

The statement from LUMCO on Friday pointed out the importance of municipal and provincial governments working together, adding that both sides will benefit if there is a collaborative approach to meeting Ontario’s fiscal responsibilities. 

In a statement on Monday, Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said he welcomes the decision which will reverse cuts to municipal funding.

“We were still compiling information on the cuts but there was no doubt the cost would have been significant,” said Canniff in the statement. “Council would have been looking at service cuts or tax increases to make up the shortfall.”

The province will not be providing additional promised gas tax funding which could cost Chatham-Kent $1 million.