Toronto

Tory slams Ford over health, child-care cuts amid pricey plan to expand booze sales

Province spending "hundreds of millions of dollars to make beer more widely available," Mayor John Tory says, while also cutting funding for public health and child care.

Toronto mayor questions province cutting city services while moving forward on campaign promise

Mayor John Tory slammed the Ford government's decision to slash funds for city services Monday, contrasting it with Ford's push to make alcohol more widely available, a move that could cost the province hundreds of millions of dollars. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Mayor John Tory is slamming Premier Doug Ford's government for slashing funds for city services while moving forward with a potentially-pricey campaign promise to bring beer into convenience stores.

The province is considering spending "hundreds of millions of dollars to make beer more widely available," while cutting funding to both public health and subsidized child care, Tory said on Monday following midday remarks at the Scarborough Business Association Luncheon.

"Where is the sense in that?" Tory questioned. "Cutting public health programs and daycare programs to find the extra money to pay the Beer Store to change their contract?"

The province faces potential financial penalties if Ford forges ahead with a campaign promise to allow convenience stores to sell beer, because the move breaches a contract with the Beer Store.

Beer industry sources previously told CBC News those penalties would total significantly more than $100 million, likely running into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

While Tory questioned the "sense" of that move, Ministry of Health spokesperson Hayley Chazan brushed off his characterization in a statement emailed to CBC Toronto.

"We're surprised to hear that Mayor Tory may have criticized changes to alcohol policies that respect adult consumers by trusting them to make responsible choices, when he himself has recently supported similar changes," she wrote.

Ford himself also weighed in with a statement, accusing Tory of "irresponsibly wading into provincial issues he is neither involved in or understands."

Ford also accuses the city of spending "millions of dollars to water dead tree stumps and hundreds of thousands of dollars on car fleets that collect dust," while complaining about not having enough money for public health.

"Perhaps Mayor Tory should find time to sit down with his Auditor General and find some value for taxpayer's dollars," the statement continues.

'Wave of growing opposition'

Meanwhile the mayor's remarks add to a growing chorus calling on the Ford government to reverse a variety of planned funding reductions.

On the public health front alone, an array of municipal organizations, health coalitions and advocacy groups — including the Mayors and Regional Chairs of Ontario, the Large Urban Mayor's Caucus of Ontario, the Ontario Medical Association, the Ontario Nurses Association, and both the public and Catholic Toronto school boards — have spoken out against the cuts.

There is a "wave of growing opposition," Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressy said earlier on Monday morning prior to a meeting of the board, which focused heavily on the funding cut for Toronto Public Health.

The province disputes the total impact of the cuts, disagreeing with the city's math, but city officials maintain a change to the cost-sharing structure between the city and province could amount to a $65-million shortfall this year alone.

On the child-care front, the city also estimates that cuts and policy changes causing a nearly $85-million funding shortfall could put more than 6,000 child care subsidies at risk. 

Coupled with those cuts, Tory is also questioning the province's decision to cut a planned hike to the municipal portion of the gas tax revenue, which Tory expected would bring roughly $1 billion into city coffers over the next decade.

"Our ability to continue to move forward and be the success we are, and be the success we've been, is in question, due to a combination of very ill-advised budget cutbacks, harsh measures imposed on cities and towns across Ontario, not just Toronto, without any consultation whatsoever — some of those measures imposed more harshly on Toronto," Tory said.

Concern over lack of consultation

In recent weeks, other city officials have echoed that concern over the level of consultation they had expected from the province on various changes impacting city services.

On Monday, the city's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen De Villa, noted there are still only "high level" details from the Ford government on the changing cost-sharing model for Toronto Public Health, which puts a bigger onus on the city to come up with the funds — a change first revealed to city officials three weeks ago.

Coun. Josh Matlow, a critic of the province's new housing supply plan, also stressed the city was only shown the final legislation for it last Thursday, rather than a draft copy, a move he deemed unusual.

As concern grows about various changes from nearly every corner of the province, Tory said his fight to stop the recent funding changes includes engaging with residents, business groups, and politicians of all stripes at Queen's Park.

"Ward-by-ward and door-to-door, I will be reminding government MPPs that they did not seek or receive a mandate to cut public health or child care ... I commit to you here today that I won't let our city be pushed backwards," Tory continued.

"If we simply throw up our hands and let this damaging budget go forward, we put our success at risk."

About the Author

Lauren Pelley is a CBC News reporter based in Toronto. Currently covering how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting Canadians, in Toronto and beyond. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

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