Tory goes door-to-door to pressure PC MPPs to 'find the courage' to oppose funding cuts
Toronto mayor hopes pressure campaign will bring province to the negotiating table
Mayor John Tory wants any one of Toronto's 11 Progressive Conservative MPPs to "find the courage" to speak out against the province's cuts to funding for public services in the city.
That was Tory's message on Saturday as he went door-to-door in the PC-held riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, speaking to residents about how the government's efforts to rein in spending could affect local families.
The unprecedented measure is the latest chapter in an ongoing political battle with Premier Doug Ford that shows no signs of abating any time soon.
"With government MPPs in Toronto, I hope one will have the courage, just one, to speak up and say what a lot of them understand — what a lot of them are hearing from their residents — speak up and say this is the wrong way to do this. It's not fair," Tory told reporters.
"I think if one of them would find the courage to speak up, you would find the government would reconsider" it's current plans, he added.
Escalating war of words
The provincial government recently announced significant retroactive changes to funding for education, public health, subsidized child care and transit repair and up-keep. City staff said the moves will ultimately cost Toronto hundreds of millions of dollars and result in considerable cuts to services or force Tory and council to raise taxes.
Tory and a coalition of mayors from around the province have been critical that the province chose to "unilaterally" implement the cuts after municipal budgets had been passed.
Earlier this week, Tory launched a petition that calls on the province to reverse course on the cuts and sit down with municipal leaders to negotiate funding going forward.
For his part, Ford has maintained that the city should be able to absorb the cuts, while also criticizing Tory's leadership and fiscal management as mayor.
'Do something about it'
Tory said Saturday that he has been left with no other choice than to try to ramp-up pressure on PC MPPs in Toronto.
"A lot of these people were very narrowly elected last time, so I hope they will be mindful of their own political position but also of the rights and wrongs of this," he said, adding that PC MPPs have told him privately that introducing the cuts after the city's budget passed was "not right."
"If that's the case, then do something about it," Tory continued.
The door-knocking campaign also included literature that lists services at risk in particular ridings. The placards closely resemble to the design of the province's anti-carbon tax stickers.
In Eglinton-Lawrence, for example, the placards say the funding changes jeopardize 919 child care subsidies, 21 breakfast programs for low-income kids and 16 school immunization programs.
"We're going to go across the city," Tory said along Coun. Mike Colle, who represents Eglinton-Lawrence at the municipal level.
Premier's office responds
Ivana Yelich, press secretary for the premier's office, said it's "unfortunate" that Tory spent the morning canvassing rather than "using the support we've provided to find the savings within his bloated government to ensure taxpayers dollars are being used for needed services."
Yelich was referencing $7.35-million the province made available to municipalities and school boards earlier this week to help carry out line-by-line reviews of their budgets.
"Toronto city council would like the public to believe the only way out is to raise taxes or cut services. We know there's another option. It's time for city council to dig deep and start looking for ways to deliver core programs better and more efficiently," Yelich said in an email statement.
Indeed, Toronto residents will soon learn what steps the city may take to make-up for the considerable budget shortfall it is now facing.
Tory said in coming weeks city staff will present a report outlining the various options on the table if the provincial government refuses to reconsider the cuts. He said that he wants to avoid raising property taxes.
"There's a lot of people struggling to pay their taxes and other expenses now in the City of Toronto," he told reporters.
"We're trying to find a different way forward."