Mayors in Ontario are accusing the provincial government of downloading by stealth.
According to Cam Guthrie, Chair of the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) and Mayor of Guelph:
“Big-city mayors from across Ontario are extremely concerned that the Government of Ontario is engaging in downloading by stealth – implementing funding and governance changes to municipalities without any consultation, after cities have already approved our budgets.
“This amounts to millions of dollars per year in funding reductions to vital, front-line services including public health, policing, library services, child care, tourism, and flood management. This is on top of a cap on Ontario gas tax funding and ongoing uncertainty with major changes to ambulance services.
“The Government of Ontario is effectively forcing municipalities to consider tax increases or service cuts to absorb the download in services it has proposed.
“The first line in Finance Minister Fedeli’s budget speech indicated the government would not raise taxes. The budget paper explicitly says that changes and costs need to be sustainable for both orders of government. There is only one taxpayer. It is disingenuous to say that the changes are sustainable, if municipalities are left to consider how to make up the shortfalls.”
“Municipalities are being notified of these changes in a piecemeal fashion through letters to agencies, after municipal budgets have already been passed – giving no time or opportunity for Councils to find efficiencies or economies of scale.
“We applaud the Province’s willingness to listen to communities’ concerns in some cases, for example on Bill 66 and changes to autism funding. But we question why it takes an outcry before we are heard. Municipalities are simply asking to be consulted beforehand, so that we can work alongside the Province on changes that are in the best interests of the taxpayers we represent. We support the Province’s efforts to get its budget deficit under control. But it cannot do so on the backs of local taxpayers, without consultation.
“We call on the Government of Ontario to postpone the implementation of these funding cuts to at least 2020, to allow for proper discussion with municipalities and local residents. We call on the Government of Ontario to be transparent about its intentions and engage with cities before downloading more services.
“City budgets across the Province have already been passed because, as the Province knows, municipalities operate on a fiscal year that runs from January to December – unlike the Province’s April to March fiscal year. Residents have begun to pay their taxes, which have been set locally after many months of consultations with residents about the services they want their local governments to provide and how much they are willing to pay for them.
“LUMCO mayors have invited Premier Ford and Minister Clark to the next LUMCO meeting. We sincerely wish for them to attend, so that we can sit down together to find a better way forward for all Ontarians.”