Mayor calls for more details on provincial funding cuts
Cities to pick up larger share of public health, child-care bill
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is joining other municipal leaders in expressing worry over the province's announcement Monday that it's moving forward with controversial cuts to health and child care.
Starting next year, municipalities across the province will have to pick up 30 per cent of the cost of public health, as well as 20 per cent of the cost of creating new child-care spaces — a cost previously borne entirely by the province.
It's virtually impossible to put a budget together when you have these gaps in missing numbers and information from the province.- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson
"We still have some problems understanding the public health cut and what that's going to be," Watson said Monday while attending the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa. "The larger it is, the more difficult it [will be] for us to absorb."
"We have no choice but to manage. Whether it's a cut in service or an increase in property taxes, downloading means we're the bottom rung of the ladder. We have nobody else to download to."
'Devil in the details'
The Progressive Conservative government tried to force retroactive funding cuts on cities earlier this year, but cancelled them after municipalities complained their annual budgets had already been set.
Premier Doug Ford's office now says some of those changes will take effect Jan. 1.
Currently, cost-sharing arrangements with the province vary by municipality. For example, Ottawa pays 25 per cent of public health care costs, while the province covers the rest, Watson said.
The mayor said he's putting pressure on the province to reveal the details of the announcement soon, so that the city can consider them while working out its 2020 budget.
"The devil is in the details. We don't know how much money it's going to cost local tax payers in the City of Ottawa," Watson said.
"It's virtually impossible to put a budget together when you have these gaps in missing numbers and information from the province."
The province is planning on increasing land ambulance funding by four per cent, and Watson said he's also looking for details on that.
Making ends meet
Coun. Rawlson King, who also attended the AMO meeting, echoed the mayor's call for more details.
"There is going to be a major risk to our revenue base if we have to take on more, because we're already doing as much as we can with as much we have," King said.
"To take away resources and financial funding to municipalities [will] just really create a lot of pressure on the City of Ottawa."
The cuts will place pressure on the city to either raise property taxes or cut services, King said.
"We don't have those tools to go out and raise that money, we can't do that like other senior levels of government," he said. "Downloading will mean more costs for us and harder decisions for municipalities in terms.
With files from Shawn Jeffords of The Canadian Press