City of Toronto launches petition against Ford governments cuts – CityNews

City of Toronto launches petition against Ford governments cuts - CityNews
Doug Ford met with chorus of boos at Collision conference amid string of tech funding cuts
The City of Toronto is fighting back against the cuts made by the Ford government by launching an online petition.

Mayor John Tory made the announcement on Wednesday standing behind a new sign affixed to his usual podium that read “Standing Up For Toronto.”

He said he believes it’s important to engage the people of Toronto in the city’s efforts to stop the cuts.

“We are facing and unprecedented $177-million in cuts to our budget due to the province’s sudden actions taken again in the middle of the year,” Tory explained.

Premier of Ontario Doug Ford, left, shakes hands with Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe during a media event in Saskatoon, Thursday, October 4, 2018. (Liam Richards/ The Canadian Press)

“Our professional city staff have been honest with people that this will either lead to service cuts or tax increases.”

Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care holds Day of Action to protest cuts

The new petition, titled “Stop the Cuts,” is demanding the province reverse the funding cuts it has made to the city.

“The fact is, this is just not a sensible or business-like way to achieve efficiencies — by imposing cuts in the middle of the year, months after municipal budgets had to be finalized,” Tory said.

The message we are trying to get across is that this 80-million cut is targeting the low-income families the most. When we look at the distribution of these fee subsidies for low-income families so they can send their kids to child care… it actually hurts Doug Fords riding the most, he said Wednesday morning.

“I believe this step in launching a petition is necessary to help draw peoples attention these cuts before they happen so that they can add their voice to this campaign and urge their local MPPs to stand up for Toronto.”

There is a wait list for 750 families who qualify that are waiting for that subsidy. We are going to have to tell most of those families, dont bother waiting because it is never going to come. That is targeting the single-parent families. Its targeting the families that need it the most.

Tory added that the website was created using existing city resources to keep the costs as low as possible.

The Financial Accountability Offices economic outlook for the province found Ontarios deficit is down $900-million over last year.

Ontario municipalities will receive at least 80 million less in child-care funding from the provincial government this year and members of the coalition say that when calculating changes to cost-sharing agreements, that number could jump substantially.

However, the FAO says if the Ford government plans to balance the budget by 2022-23, it will need to find another $6-billion in spending cuts.

The FAO is also warning of slower economic growth, saying revenues are projected to increase just 3.2 per cent per year which is down from the previous gains of 4.2 per cent over the last five years.

With the cost of child care, you are looking at 2,000 for an infant, 1500 thereabouts for a toddler. Not all families can just absorb that cost. Most cant, he said.

The provincial government has come under fire over the last year for its cuts to services – including funding to Autism services, education and child care.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson has previously said that municipalities must find efficiencies and re-evaluate how they are administering child-care programs.

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The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care is holding a Day of Action on Wednesday to protest cuts to child-care funding in the province.

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Layton noted that the cuts will also impact full-fee paying parents, who will see a 4.7 per cent increase on average to their child-care bill.

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"Our government was elected with a clear mandate to fix the financial mess left behind by the previous Liberal government. We are calling on our municipal partners to work with us to get our province off the path of bankruptcy," wrote Ford's press secretary Ivana Yelich in an email to CBC Toronto.

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Premier Doug Ford said Toronto, and other municipalities, can find savings by cutting waste from their books. He suggested municipal governments could aim to reduce spending by four per cent, which is the target Ford has set for provincial budget savings.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was met with a chorus of boos and sparse applause as he took the stage at the Collision tech conference in Toronto on Tuesday — the same day that news broke that the province slashed $24 million in artificial intelligence research.

"Thank you for the warm welcome, my friends," Ford said after being introduced by the conference's co-host, Sunil Sharma.

The Ontario government responded to those concerns on Tuesday with an offer of $7.35 million to help municipalities and school boards conduct third party audits of their budgets.

Ford appeared at the conference one day after Prime Minister Trudeau made the case to attendees Monday evening that Canada has immigration to thank for its thriving technology sector. The four-day conference is being held in Canada for the first time and is set to take place in Ontario for the next three years. 

"I urge all Toronto residents to sign the petition so we can send a message to the province," said Mayor John Tory at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

"If you want to expand, if you want to grow and you want to prosper and thrive, the likes of which you've never seen before, come to Ontario, invest in Ontario," Ford said in closing. "Thank you and God bless each and every one of you."

As part of his appeal, Ford cited "44 leading colleges and universities that produce more than 50,000 STEM graduates each year" and curricula that go "back to the basics" with a focus on math and science. 

"While I wish we could have avoided this next step, I believe it's important to engage the people of the city in our efforts to stop these cuts."

Ford's comments come as the Tories are trying to eliminate an $11.7-billion deficit with cuts across a series of industries.

The city claims the reduction will jeopardize several core city services, including student vaccinations, school breakfasts and subsidized child care spaces.

A spokeswoman for the economic development minister said the government's understanding is that the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine "will continue to do great work for the sector with private industry funding."  

"If the mayor decides to cut breakfast programs and childcare subsides, or raise taxes, rather than find savings, that is his decision."

"We have to find small efficiencies across the board," Ford said Tuesday. "It's not sustainable."

"We are seeing mixed signals from this government," said Daniel Munro, visiting scholar at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

"On the one hand, they say that they are 'open for business,' they're interested in finding ways to make companies more innovative and helping to produce jobs. On the other hand, we're seeing cuts to some really important interesting programs," he said.

"I think that mix of messages alone is enough for the tech world or the tech community in Toronto and in Ontario to be concerned … If you're a tech company that's thinking about where to start up or you're somebody who's thinking about where to invest, you're look at Ontario now as sort of having a more uncertain environment than it did."

For its part, the head of the Vector Institute said the organization has a "strong and productive" working relationship with the province. 

"Ontario is unequivocally a top destination in the world for the best talent and companies pursuing AI and the Vector Institute will continue to work with the province to help maintain Ontario's  leadership position," president and CEO Garth Gibson said in a statement.

But the NDP's employment, research and innovation critic was much more direct, saying cutting AI funding is short-sighted.

"Instead of preparing our province for the economy of the future, Ford and his Conservatives are dragging Ontario backwards by ripping away resources that support innovation and job creation," Catherine Fife said in a statement.  

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