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Province announces funding to help municipalities, school boards find efficiencies

Last Updated May 21, 2019 at 2:56 pm EDT

Premier Doug Ford sent a bold message to municipalities and school boards struggling to find money in the face of provincial budget cuts — if you can’t find the cash, we’ll help find it for you.

Ford announced on Tuesday that his government would be providing large municipalities and school boards with $7.35 million so that independent auditors can go through their books with a fine-toothed comb to find four per cent in efficiencies.

“Today I’m announcing that we will be providing support to large municipalities and school boards,” Ford said from Ajax where he addressed the local business community. “We are committing $7.35 million through the audit and accountability fund. We know that our partners want to deliver the services that people on our communities depend on.”

Last week, Toronto budget chair, Coun. Gary Crawford, said homeowners could face a second tax bill to make up for province’s budget cuts.

Crawford said the prospect of hiking taxes troubled him, but he couldn’t rule it out in the face of a City Manager report that estimated the city’s 2019 funding loss from provincial cuts at nearly $180 million.

“I don’t think I can actually find that kind of money in efficiencies … without severely cutting services, or raising taxes,” Crawford said last Tuesday.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he penned a letter to the province on Monday, asking Ford to reverse cuts that would affect city services.

A day later, Tory also questioned the province’s priorities.

“A government that says it’s willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to rip up a contract with the Beer Stores in order to make corner store beer possible, but at the same time is cutting child care and cutting public health, you really have to wonder about the priorities in that.”

Tory also noted that the province was spending $30 million on ads fighting the carbon tax, saying that’s “money that could be going into childcare and public health.”

But Ford staunchly defended the cuts on Tuesday, and stressed again that cities like Toronto could find money without further burdening taxpayers.

“We’ve heard from a few municipalities, that they will need to raise taxes, that new taxes or deep cuts to services are the only solution … I’m here to tell you there is another way … it’s time for all governments to get spending under control.”

“We know that finding efficiencies is difficult work, we’ve gone through it ourselves,” the Premier added. “But it is the most important work that there is in government.

“If it came down to protecting their children’s future, every family in Ontario could find four cents on the dollar … all we are asking is that our partners join us in doing the same.”