Ontario’s Tory government cancels retroactive cuts to municipalities

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TORONTO — Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has backed down on retroactive funding cuts to municipalities after sustained pressure from local leaders who warned of devastating impacts to public health, child care and ambulance services.

Premier Doug Ford said he heard from municipalities that they could find savings in their own budgets, but they needed more time to do so.

“We’ve come up with a conclusion that we’re going to work together,” he said Monday. “We’re going to maintain the funding throughout this year. Every mayor I talked to said they can find savings. So that’s good news. But they said they needed more runway.”

The Tories are tackling an $11.7-billion deficit and had announced a host of funding cuts to municipalities, including for public health, child care and ambulance services.

The cuts combined with the cancellation of an increase to municipalities’ share of the gas tax mean local governments would be out well over half a billion dollars annually.

Municipalities had been pushing back hard against the funding cuts, which were announced after they already passed this year’s budgets and would have been retroactive.

Toronto Mayor John Tory was leading the charge through news conferences, starting a petition and urging residents to sign, door knocking, and creating a sticker parodying the province’s anti-carbon tax stickers for gas pumps.

Local government leaders had warned that they would be forced to raise taxes or slash services as a result of the Tories’ cuts.

Last week, Ford said the province would pay for them to get outside line-by-line budget reviews done.