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Canada Loss of gas-tax revenue blows hole in Toronto capital plans

The province’s move to nix a planned increase in how much gas-tax revenue it would pass on to municipalities has blown a $1.1-billion hole in Toronto’s long-term capital plan, with much of the money already having been committed to maintaining the city’s transit system.

It’s unclear how the cash-strapped city will be able to close that gap. Mayor John Tory – who called the province’s move “incredibly disappointing” − said that while Toronto should be able to shuffle projects to cover the roughly $24-million missing this year, bigger shortfalls in future years will be more difficult.

Councillor Joe Cressy pointed to the dissonance between the province on Wednesday unveiling a multibillion transit expansion plan and then, a day later, announcing cuts to funding that the current system needs now.

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“This is a vicious cycle by design,” he said. “They break the TTC by not funding the TTC, and then propose to upload the TTC to fix the broken system that they caused.” Oliver Moore

Board of health plans to fight budget cuts

Toronto’s Board of Health will hold a special meeting on Monday to push back against the province’s plan to consolidate local public-health units and cut at least $200-million from their collective budgets.

The Ford government intends to replace the existing 35 local health units with 10 regional public-health organizations by 2020-21. Right now, the province pays $743-million a year to support approximately three-quarters of the budgets of local health units − the organizations that provide vaccinations, test water quality, inspect restaurants and guard against infectious diseases.

Medical officers of health from across the province held an emergency conference call Friday morning after they were caught off guard by the government’s plan, which was revealed in Thursday’s budget.

“I think we all expected cuts, but certainly not of the size and magnitude that was announced,” said Robert Kyle, medical officer of health for Durham Region and president of the association that represents public health units across Ontario. Kelly Grant

Province denies it is slashing Indigenous Affairs funds

While NDP, federal Liberal and Green critics complained loudly that Ontario was slashing its Indigenous Affairs Ministry’s budget by 50 per cent, the province’s PC government says this is not so.

The budget unveiled Thursday shows a reduction to the department’s base budget from $81-million in 2018-19 to $74.4-million in 2019-20 – a 7-per-cent cut. Critics citing a much larger reduction were erroneously including the value, included in the 2018-19 total budget, of $65-million in land-claim settlements or awards paid out last year, the government says.

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Sydney Stonier, a spokeswoman for Greg Rickford, the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, said whatever settlements are paid out over the next year will be reflected in next year’s budget, and that they vary from year to year. She said the base budget cut, which is closer to 15 per cent from the department’s $88-million budget in 2017-18, will be achieved by operating more efficiently, but would provide no details.

In an interview, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said his political opponents, including Carolyn Bennett, the federal Liberal Minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations who spoke out against the cuts, were being unfair: “I’ve seen some of the comments of the federal ministers, and she has chosen to ignore those facts and certainly distort the truth. I think that Ontario is committed to reconciliation.” Jeff Gray

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