Ottawa

Municipal affairs minister urges calm as cuts loom

Ontario municipal affairs minister Steve Clark downplayed concerns Tuesday over Premier Doug Ford's announcement that the province will move forward with slashing provincial funding for public health and child care. 

More time needed to put dollar figure on promised transitional funding, Steve Clark says

Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, right, said his government will collaborate with municipalities before implementing the funding changes announced by Premier Doug Ford, left. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Ontario municipal affairs minister Steve Clark downplayed concerns Tuesday over Premier Doug Ford's announcement that the province will move forward with slashing provincial funding for public health and child care. 

The announcement, delivered Monday at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa, prompted concern from municipal leaders about how cities would handle the cuts, and uncertainty about how the province would help manage the transition.

"The premier's announcement yesterday, I think, gives us a number of months to sit down at the technical tables ... to give mayors like [Ottawa Mayor] Jim Watson the opportunity to have the input he needs before he sets his budget," Clark told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Tuesday. 

Watson previously said it was "virtually impossible" to lay out a city budget without further information about the nature of the cuts.

Health costs to rise

Beginning next year, municipalities across the province will foot 30 per cent of public health costs, an increase from the 25 per cent Ottawa currently fronts. Cities will also be responsible for 20 per cent of the cost of creating new child care spaces, funding previously covered entirely by the province. 

The Ford government halted cuts to public health, child care and land ambulance services in the spring after backlash from municipalities, which had already passed budgets for 2019. Unlike public health and child care funding, the province is upping funding for land ambulances by four per cent. 

Ford reassured concerned city leaders at Monday's conference that transitional funding would be provided to offset costs, but Clark remained silent on providing a dollar figure.

"We want to take this time to actually sit down with our municipal partners," he said.

Province 'being responsive,' Clark says

Clark added that for municipalities that already cover 30 per cent of public health costs to the province's 70 per cent, cities will see a "similar funding envelope" to what they've received in the past.  

"But for those that don't, they won't have any more than a 10 per cent reduction [in funding]," Clark said. "In those cases, that's where we'll sit down with them in these next several months before budgets are set to actually work on the transition and the dollars that are necessary."

As for cities' new responsibility to cover costs for child care spots, Clark pointed to the province's plan to put $85 million back into child care in 2020 and an additional $36 million in 2021.

"We're being responsive to what municipalities have told us, how they want to implement these transformative changes," he said.

"The reason we're announcing them now is so that we've got several months to sit down and work with our municipal partners to work through the implementation."

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

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