Today, I am standing with Mayors from across the GTA to express our concerns with recently announced budget cuts by the Province of Ontario that were done without municipal consultation. The result is a downloading of costs to cities and our residents.
This afternoon, mayors of the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) released a joint statement opposing these cuts and asking for consultation and greater transparency going forward.
Many of these cuts impact essential front-line services that our residents depend on. They are not “nice-to-haves.” They are not “efficiencies.” They are the cornerstone of a strong and stable community. They are public health, paramedic services, conservation, flood mitigation, tree planting, child care, and social assistance, just to name a few.
Effective governments work in partnership with one another across all levels. The provincial government has been in office already for nine months. They had time to consult with their municipal partners before announcing their budget in April and they chose not to. Municipalities finalize their budgets early in the calendar year. Through this lack of consultation and transparency along the way, combined with cuts that are being made to the current year’s budgets for many services, there is no ability for municipalities to react and plan ahead.
As I referenced in a recent media release, the Province’s decision to cap the gas-tax funding will result in $19 million, collectively, that will no longer be provided to Burlington to support transit over the next 10 years. The cuts being made to Conservation Authorities, including flood-mitigation funding, will impact Halton Region by more than $145,000, of which Burlington’s share is more than $45,000. At a time when we are seeing record-breaking flood conditions in parts of Ontario, including four communities now under a state of emergency, this is not the time to reduce those dollars. The cuts to public health, paramedics, child care, social assistance, and library services are yet to be fully understood. The cut of more than 50% of funding for the Ontario Music Fund could impact our treasured Sound of Music festival that brings an infusion of both culture and tourism dollars to our city every year. More cuts are still expected to surface.
The lack of transparency and communication around these cuts has been particularly troubling. Mayors have not been informed directly by the Province, but rather by the service agencies themselves who have been alerted through letters sent to them and are now reaching out for help.
This is your money — money you sent to the Province through your income taxes — and these cuts mean that you’re not getting it back in the municipality you live to allocate to the things that you rely on and that matter to you.
This is downloading of costs by stealth, without transparency or consultation. The result is cuts to vital programs: public health, conservation, flood mitigation, tree planting, library services, and more that are still to come. These cuts hurt the health and well-being of our community, along with our environment.
The provincial government pledged to reduce the deficit by finding efficiencies — instead they are cutting front-line programs that you depend on. They are balancing their own books by sending costs back to the cities and the property tax base.
That leaves us, as municipal Mayors, to choose between raising taxes or cutting front-line services, neither of which are acceptable.
We call on the Province to honour their share of funding commitments, consult with municipalities before further cuts are made, and allow us the time to plan and react by avoiding in-year budget cuts.
I will make myself available for media inquiries this evening and in the coming days to continue this conversation and keep the people of our city informed.