Council can't grant Ford's request to put anti-gangs and guns funding on special meeting agenda, Tory says

In an open letter to Toronto's mayor, Premier Doug Ford asked city council to discuss adding more funding to address guns and gangs at its special meeting next Monday, scheduled to discuss legal responses to Ford's council-cutting bill. Tory responded with his own open letter Friday afternoon.

Tory says changing meeting isn't possible, but is committed to matching provincial funding

Ontario Premier Doug Ford sent an open letter to Mayor John Tory, imploring him to address adding funding for guns and gangs to the city council agenda next week. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

In an open letter to Toronto's mayor, Premier Doug Ford asked city council to discuss increasing funding to address guns and gangs at its special meeting next Monday. The special meeting was scheduled to discuss legal options for challenging Ford's recently-passed Bill 5, which slashes the number of city councillors from 47 to 25.

Ford's open letter comes after his government committed an extra $25 million to fight gun violence in Toronto last week, and asked the city and federal government to match its spending. 

Tory responded with his own open letter Friday afternoon, saying he's committed to matching the funding but also reminding the premier that changing the special meeting agenda is not possible.

"As you would remember from your time on City Council, Special meetings are confined to the issue for which they were called, so as to ensure their efficiency, accountability and transparency on behalf of the people of Toronto," Tory wrote.

Tory welcomed the funding announcement last week, and said he's committed to matching the province's spending in 2018. If re-elected as mayor, Tory said he will continue to match the funding in future years. Tory said he also told this to Ford in person Friday morning.

Ford government passes bill to cut councillors

On Tuesday, the new Progressive Conservative government passed the Better Local Governments Act, or Bill 5, receiving no support from the opposition parties. 

Tory said council has a report from the city solicitor and hopes to have a constructive discussion at Monday's meeting about legal responses to the plan.

Mayor John Tory says he's already committed to matching the province's additional spending to combat gun violence in 2018. (CBC)

Ford's open letter, dated Aug. 16, said the citizens of Toronto "cannot wait for funding to help fight guns and gangs."

"Already in 2018, Toronto is on pace to have the deadliest gun-related homicide rate in years. This is unacceptable, and requires immediate action from all levels of government without reservation," Ford wrote.

"I implore you, along with Toronto City Council to address this critical issue at your meeting on August 20th and add funding for guns and gangs to the City Council agenda."

Council has already responded, Tory says

Tory said city council has already taken "all necessary and responsible steps to ensure that our government can respond appropriately and expediently to the needs of our citizens during this election period, and so no additional Council action is required."

In the letter, Tory said city officials were given delegated authority during the July council meeting, allowing them to "receive and flow funding from other levels of government throughout the remainder of 2018 to combat gun violence.

"At this meeting, Council also directed the Toronto Police Services to immediately hire 100 new police officers, funding which had been previously contemplated by the TPSB and which matches the provincial commitment," the mayor wrote.

In the open letter, Tory also outlined other efforts to combat gun violence, including deploying more police officers, applying for $32.6-million in federal funding for community-based prevention initiatives, and asking the federal government to ban the sale of handguns in Toronto.

Ford said last week the $25 million will be distributed in two phases over four years.

About $7.6 million of the provincial spending will go toward creating so-called "legal SWAT teams" focused on stopping people charged with firearms offences from getting bail.

Tory has also advocated for bail reforms, asking the prime minister to revoke bail opportunities for repeat gun offenders in an August 3 letter.