NDP Municipal Affairs critic Jeff Burch (Niagara Centre) and NDP Transit critic Jessica Bell (University—Rosedale) are calling on the Ford government to commit to supporting municipalities over the long-term, after the government said Monday it would distribute “up to” $4 billion in one-time funding.
For two years before the pandemic, Doug Ford made deep cuts to municipalities, including cuts to public health, ambulance services, and child care. Ford also took away municipalities’ promised share of the existing gas tax transfer.
“Our municipal partners continue to do much of the heavy lifting, including funding public health, child care, municipal long-term care facilities and more. While the funding announced Monday might give some breathing room to municipalities hurting from pandemic costs, it still falls far short of what will be needed to protect jobs and public services over the long-term,” said Burch. “Doug Ford’s cuts were deep. Without a long-term commitment to stable funding, Ontario’s municipalities could be forced to impose steep property tax hikes, lay off more staff and make deep cuts to services people count on. That’s no way to recover.”
Bell says that the funding crisis in public transit was created by the Ford government when they took away municipalities’ promised share of the existing gas tax transfer, which has only gotten worse due to the significantly reduced ridership during the pandemic. “The provincial government used to fund 50 per cent of the operating costs of transit. If this government is truly committed to helping Ontario recover — which includes helping commuters get on less crowded, more frequent buses and trains and going back to work — it needs to reverse its cuts and permanently fund some transit operating costs,” said Bell.
Bell and Burch said the NDP would be closely monitoring the one-time funding rollout. Unanswered questions remain about how municipalities will apply for the money and how it will be divided; as well as what the total amount will be, since Monday’s funding announcement included only a maximum, not a final tally.