The worst of the mistakes made by Mike Harris, conservative premier of Ontario from 1995 to 2002, was the downloading of provincial government expenses to municipalities. It was a stupid and ill-advised. And despite the lessons learned, we now have premier Doug Ford following in Harris’ draconian footsteps.
Where the municipalities had thought the Ford government had backed down on some of these moves, he announced them anew this week at the annual meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). Where he had backed down on cutting funding for ambulance costs, daycare support and public health retroactively this year, he has now promised the cuts for next year.
These are all services that the previous liberal government had assured the municipalities would be looked after by the province. While there were few details in the speech that the premier read from a teleprompter, it is assumed that it will be at least 30 per cent of these costs will end up coming from municipal revenues.
Each of these services is essential to the well being of Ontario’s municipalities and they can only pay for them with substantial increases in property taxes or cutting of other core services.
These changes are believed to be designed to aid the provincial government in covering more of its deficit without raising taxes. It is supposed to make the provincial politicians look better at controlling the taxpayers’ money than the municipalities. When premier Mike Harris did it, he had little understanding of the economics of the province and its municipalities and many of the cuts he made caused serious results in services delivered and even deaths from failure in delivery of essential services that people had trusted.
Doug Ford, on the other hand, continues to want to get even with Toronto for the way the city treated his brother when mayor.
Mike Harris wanted to create a legacy. Doug Ford is just vindictive.
Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry
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