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CanadaToronto Tory MPPs say they stand by Ford’s budget cuts

07:35  13 may  2019
07:35  13 may  2019 Source:   thestar.com

Doug Ford government child-care cuts will hit Toronto hard, city manager warns

Doug Ford government child-care cuts will hit Toronto hard, city manager warns Premier Doug Ford’s cuts and changes to child-care funding are expected to cost the City of Toronto $84.8 million this year alone and jeopardize 6,166 subsidized daycare spaces for low-income parents, according to city staff calculations. City manager Chris Murray emailed Mayor John Tory and Toronto’s 25 councillors the grim bombshell, the results of city staff number-crunching, late Thursday afternoon. The Star obtained a copy of the email outlining the latest in a series of Progressive Conservative provincial budget cuts that could cost the City of Toronto, over the next decade, billions of dollars in funding for transit, public health and more.

Local Progressive Conservative MPPs under pressure to stand up for Toronto against deep funding cuts say they ’re standing behind Premier Doug Ford , even if a couple don’t want to talk about it. The Star emailed questions to the 10 Toronto Tory MPPs other than Ford , including whether they are

Toronto Tory MPPs say they stand by Ford ’ s budget cuts . 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.

Toronto Tory MPPs say they stand by Ford’s budget cuts© Fred Thornhill While the Star sought answers from individual MPPs, the office of Premier Doug Ford let the Star know the MPPs would respond with a joint statement.

Local Progressive Conservative MPPs under pressure to stand up for Toronto against deep funding cuts say they’re standing behind Premier Doug Ford, even if a couple don’t want to talk about it.

The Star emailed questions to the 10 Toronto Tory MPPs other than Ford, including whether they are uncomfortable with any of their government’s cuts pegged by the city manager at $178 million this year for public health, transit maintenance, child-care spaces for low-income parents and more.

Ford’s cuts are falling heaviest on Toronto

Ford’s cuts are falling heaviest on Toronto When Premier Doug Ford cut Toronto’s city council in half in the middle of last year’s municipal election campaign, the Star said it amounted to “spitting in the face of the city and its voters.” Little did we know that was just the opening salvo in what’s turning out to be a sustained campaign by the Ford government to undermine the city’s authority at every opportunity and single out Toronto for specially harsh treatment as it pares back provincial spending.

The cuts would affect school breakfast programs, DineSafe Toronto (the city’s restaurant inspection program), sexual health clinics, clinics that And as the 2019’s Ontario Budget became clearer, Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed his concerns over Doug Ford ’ s cuts , making it clear that a fight

Ontario Progressive Conservative MPPs should not put party loyalty ahead of their constituents’ interests when it comes to spending cuts , Mayor John Tory says . In his latest letter to Premier Doug Ford

Mayor John Tory, city councillors and some of their constituents are urging them to convince Ford and his cabinet to rescind the budget cuts, including one that hits Toronto harder than other cities, and sit down with municipalities to explore ways the province can save money and cut the deficit.

Toronto Tory MPPs say they stand by Ford’s budget cuts© Mike Adler Aris Babikian (Scarborough-Agincourt) blamed labour unions for stirring up opposition to the cuts.

Ford’s office quickly let the Star know the MPPs would respond with a joint statement, which said: “Our government is protecting what matters most for Toronto families — like health care and education — by balancing the budget in a reasonable and responsible manner . . .

“While our government protects what matters — like health care and education — and cleans up an inherited fiscal mess, we are asking our municipal partners to work alongside us to find efficiencies.”

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The City of Toronto has said the cuts , which include deep slashes to funding for child care and Speaking from a podium bearing the phrase “ Standing up for Toronto ,” Mayor John Tory READ MORE: John Tory slams Ontario government’ s budget cuts ahead of Doug Ford announcement.

Tory slams Ford over health, child-care cuts amid pricey plan to expand booze sales. Tory calls the cuts unilateral and retroactive and notes that they were made without any consultation The mayor says provincial cuts to child care will make it difficult for Toronto parents to work outside of the home.

It repeated Ford statements about wasteful city spending and concluded: “We fight each and every day for the people of Toronto and we want to work with the City of Toronto as a partner,” and the MPPs welcome “any opportunity” to discuss the issues in greater detail with the city.

Six of them spoke to the Star, at least briefly, when approached after question period. Two, Stan Cho (Willowdale) and Christine Hogarth (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), agreed to longer phone interviews about the downloading and the pressure being put on them to oppose it.

But Raymond Cho, a former longtime Toronto city councillor and, as minister for seniors and accessibility the most senior local PC MPP next to Ford himself, refused comment when approached by a Star reporter before bolting into a private PC backroom.

Several subsequent requests for an interview with Cho went unanswered.

Kinga Surma (Etobicoke Centre) also refused to stop, picking up her pace and striding quickly into a private room when a Star reporter identified himself and asked to speak about the budget cuts.

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Ford ’ s cuts are falling heaviest on Toronto . When Premier Doug Ford cut Toronto ’s city council in © Chris Young/The Canadian Press Toronto Mayor John Tory has vowed to fight Ford ' s cuts A series of provincial Toronto Tory MPPs say they stand by Ford ’ s budget cuts : 'The sky isn' t falling'.

Doug Ford ’ s failed brand of conservatism, Letters, May 14. Gordon Simpson is absolutely correct. The last real Progressive Conservative premier was Bill Davis. If Premier Doug Ford ’ s caucus had any true convictions about what is best for Ontario and Toronto , they could band together and put pressure on

Christina Mitas (Scarborough Centre) is on maternity leave. Her office declined an interview request, pointing the Star to the joint statement.

Hogarth said: “Being a leader is about making tough decisions. (Ford) is fully supported by his caucus — we are a team and sometimes the tough decisions are not the most popular ones but they’re going to be sustainable ones that ensure we have a prosperous province in the future.”

Ford has attacked Tory personally in recent statements, saying “Instead of looking out for the taxpayer, the City of Toronto has let waste fester,” and “If John Tory spent as much time going through the city’s finances as he does worrying about the colour of the Toronto sign, he would be able to find some efficiencies and deliver some value for taxpayers’ dollars.”

But both Hogarth and Stan Cho stressed that they aren’t fighting the popular mayor.

“He is a good mayor and he runs a tight ship,” Hogarth told the Star. “So we have to find some efficiencies.” Asked about her government’s statements about wasteful Toronto spending, Hogarth said Tory “is only one vote at council” and noted some councillors want above-inflation tax hikes.

Provincial child-care cuts will hurt families, Tory says in letters to Toronto PC MPPs

Provincial child-care cuts will hurt families, Tory says in letters to Toronto PC MPPs Mayor John Tory sent letters to Toronto's 11 Progressive Conservative MPPs outlining how the province's cuts to child-care funding could hurt families in their ridings. The letters, which were sent Friday, specify the number of subsidized child-care spaces at risk of being curtailed or cancelled and the number of children on the wait list for a city-funded subsidy in each PC-held riding in the city. Tory calls the cuts unilateral and retroactive and notes that they were made without any consultation with Toronto officials.

Displeased with the ruling, Ford gave notice he would re-table the legislation cutting Toronto city council seats and invoke the notwithstanding That’ s why Vaughan said he’ s calling on Progressive Conservative MPPs — particularly those in Toronto — to vote against the re-introduced legislation.

Toronto Mayor John Tory is urging Ontario’ s government to reverse what he calls “unilateral Tory has sent a letter to each of the 11 Progressive Conservative MPPs who represent ridings in his city He says the cuts will result in a nearly -million reduction to the city’ s child-care budget and the

Stan Cho said: “I have great respect for the mayor and for the premier. Very frankly this is not political for me. This is about getting the system right, it’s about righting the financial ship.”

When asked Wednesday about his message for Raymond Cho and his colleagues, Tory said he agrees Ontario must be kept “strong” economically — but not on the backs of Toronto’s most vulnerable residents.

“These cuts are ill-advised, they were the subject of no discussion with us and perhaps we’re better to start over again,” with talks on cost-cutting, Tory said. “Raymond, you can make that happen.”

The mayor, a former leader of the Ontario PC party, said more than one Toronto PC MPP has privately told him they are not comfortable with either the cuts or the way they were imposed. He declined to name them, saying the conversations were private.

Tory ratcheted up pressure Saturday with letters to the PC Toronto caucus telling each member how many subsidized child spaces in their riding they have imperilled. Residents look to them for leadership in reversing these “unilateral, retroactive acts,” Tory wrote, “especially because no one sought or received a mandate in the election to cut child care.”

MPPs are also hearing from their constituents, directly and via left-leaning group Progress Toronto which has an online tool that lets people input their postal code and send a customized message about public health cuts to politicians including Ford and their local councillor.

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“Everyone knows this constituent is opposed” to the cuts, said Progress Toronto’s Michal Hay, adding more than 8,600 people have sent messages to MPPs from different parties.

Her group is also doing robocalls targeted at residents of the 11 Toronto PC ridings, allowing them to be patched through to their MPPs’ office. About 2,500 people have done so, Hay said.

“MPPs are most persuaded by the people they represent and we’re trying to make it easier for people to make that contact with their politicians,” she said, noting Ford government reversals on funding for autism treatments and protections for the Green Belt against development.

“It might not happen instantly but we think the more people that they hear from, the more likely it is they’ll at least express internally that at a Conservative caucus meeting so that they start to change their tune.”

Several MPPs shrugged off the pressure campaign.

“The unions are organizing phone banks and demonstrations in front of the (constituency) offices,” said Aris Babikian (Scarborough-Agincourt). “But other than that, which I think they are a very small minority . . . on the contrary people are quite happy with what we’re doing and they want us to continue.”

MPP Roman Baber (York Centre) said he has “heard from a number of constituents over the last couple of days and appreciate everyone reaching out.

“Our government inherited a colossal mess from the former Liberal government,” he added.

Hogarth, who worked at city hall as executive assistant to John Campbell when he was a city councillor, told the Star that constituent opposition to the cuts hasn’t been “extraordinary.”

Edward Keenan: Doug Ford has done what no one else could: united Toronto city council

Edward Keenan: Doug Ford has done what no one else could: united Toronto city council Premier Doug Ford has recently taken to characterizing those who oppose his massive retroactive cuts to Toronto Public Health. It’s just a “bastion of lefties” wasting “ridiculous amounts of money,” he said this week. Let us, then, venture into this bastion to see these lefty spendthrifts in action, at Tuesday’s Toronto city council meeting, where a motion from the former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, Mayor John Tory, was being debated. The motion called for the province to reverse the cuts immediately. Councillor Stephen Holyday, of Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre, rose to speak.

“You’re never going to make 100 per cent of the population happy — that’s just part of politics. But we were elected as a team to get our fiscal house in order and what we need to do is build a sustainable and prosperous Ontario for future generations.”

Asked why new funding formulas for public health funding hits Toronto harder than other municipalities, Hogarth said: “I believe we need . . .” and paused mid-sentence, before saying her government urges Toronto to “set more responsible priorities by working with us to ensure that the vital public health programs — and that includes vaccinations and school nutrition — continue to be properly funded.”

Asked where Toronto can find funds to offset the big cuts, she gave as an example recreation centres in some gentrifying areas that offer free programs to all including more prosperous residents.

“If you make $100,000 per year, maybe you can pay for your own yoga class.”

Stan Cho said he is happy to speak to concerned constituents and tell them, among other things, Toronto is incorrect alleging Ford government child-care cuts and policy changes will cost Toronto $84.8 million this year and jeopardize 6,166 subsidized daycare spaces for low-income parents.

“There’s no truth to saying there’s going to be 6,000 child care spots closed. I’d like to avoid politicking,” he said.

When the Star noted it was city staff, not politicians, who calculated the figure, the MPP said: “We’ve only asked them to cut administrative costs. The city has their budget. They don’t have to cut breakfasts for needy kids, they don’t have to talk about doing all these things I’ve heard on the news.”

John Parker knows the kind of pressure local MPPs are feeling. He was a Toronto member of Mike Harris’s caucus from 1995 to 1999 when that PC government downloaded some costs to municipalities, and later a Toronto city councillor from 2006 to 2014.

Tory tells Ford city will look for savings, if province cancels this year’s budget cuts

Tory tells Ford city will look for savings, if province cancels this year’s budget cuts Mayor John Tory is offering Premier Doug Ford “a path forward” to end their feud over major funding cuts poised to hit Toronto public health, child care and transit services. But Tory’s offer — to scour city finances with provincial and possibly private-sector help — hinges on the penny-pinching being saved for next year’s budget, with Ford halting this year’s estimated $178-million funding clawback. The mayor notes city council’s vote last week asking Ford to cancel cuts, most of them retroactive to April 1 — after Toronto and other blindsided municipalities had approved 2019 budgets with spending plans and tax bills.

“It was extremely intense and it wasn’t easy to handle at all,” Parker said of opposition to the downloading, adding that he and his colleagues knew it was “desperate times” for provincial finances and they were elected with Harris’s “Common Sense Revolution” outlining changes to come.

“If as a government you can satisfy yourself that your motives are pure and you’ve looked at all options and you’re comfortable with the approach you’re taking, then you face up to the opposition,” he said.

Asked about consultation at the time with municipalities, Parker noted he wasn’t at the cabinet table but said: “I believe there was a very businesslike approach, government to government, in identifying problems and trying to develop solutions.”

What the Toronto PC MPPs who spoke to the Star had to say:

  • Robin Martin (Eglinton-Lawrence): “I haven’t heard recently,” said Martin when asked if her office had received any complaints about the cuts. “I’d rather do this later.” Her office later declined an interview, pointing the Star to the MPPs’ joint statement.
  • Vincent Ke (Don Valley North): “It’s not cuts. It’s provincially we have to do the job. I think the municipality has to take their responsibilities. We do our job and they should do theirs.”
  • Stan Cho (Willowdale): “This is an open dialogue we’re having with the city. The mayor’s welcome to contact me any time to have a conversation. I’m happy speak with him.”
  • Vijay Thanigasalam (Scarborough-Rouge Park): The government “made choices to protect what matters most. My constituents in Scarborough, they are excited about the child care (tax credit in the budget), the seniors’ dental care (for low-income elderly Ontarians) and now we have a three-stop subway coming into Scarborough.”
  • Aris Babikian (Scarborough-Agincourt): People “are quite happy with the promise of the extension of the subway . . . that has left a positive effect. People are very positive, they are very happy with what we are bringing. They come and they encourage us to continue the same way,” said Babikian, blaming labour unions for stirring up opposition to the cuts.

“Many of the people without even being informed properly, they call and they start arguing, or not arguing, actually, discussing the issue. When I explain to them the real picture they have a quite different reaction.”

  • Roman Baber (York Centre) said he has “heard from a number of constituents over the last couple of days and appreciate everyone reaching out.”

“Between the Toronto public health cuts that amount to at most, according to the city, $64 million a year and the child care subsidy cuts, which at most amount to about $37 million a year, we’re talking about less than $100 million all together . . . ” he said.

“Surely at a time when we’re all looking to tighten up a little bit we can count on our municipal partners to come up with three-quarters of a per cent to help get our province back on track. The sky isn’t falling.”

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

David Rider is the Star's City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

Robert Benzie is the Star's Queen's Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Read more

Tory tells Ford city will look for savings, if province cancels this year’s budget cuts.
Mayor John Tory is offering Premier Doug Ford “a path forward” to end their feud over major funding cuts poised to hit Toronto public health, child care and transit services. But Tory’s offer — to scour city finances with provincial and possibly private-sector help — hinges on the penny-pinching being saved for next year’s budget, with Ford halting this year’s estimated $178-million funding clawback. The mayor notes city council’s vote last week asking Ford to cancel cuts, most of them retroactive to April 1 — after Toronto and other blindsided municipalities had approved 2019 budgets with spending plans and tax bills.

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