Mayor John Tory is personally taking his fight against Premier Doug Ford’s funding cuts to Torontonians, making his case door to door in Progressive Conservative ridings.
Tory and volunteers plan a campaign-style canvass of residents Saturday in Eglinton-Lawrence, represented by MPP Robin Martin. They will urge residents to contact Martin and pressure her to get Ford to cancel $177.65 million in cuts to provincial funding for Toronto this year.
The mayor will hand out cards stating, “Help stop the provincial government’s retroactive cuts to your community,” with information about what’s at risk in that riding. For Eglinton-Lawrence, the card says, Ford’s cuts threaten 919 child care subsidies, 21 breakfast programs for low-income kids and 16 school immunization programs.
The phone number for Martins’s Dufferin St. constituency office is printed beneath her photo with the words: “Call your MPP Robin Martin to help stop these cuts today.”
On the card’s other side is a graphic that closely mimics the Ford’s government’s sticker mandated for Ontario gas pumps, warning about the costs of the federal carbon tax.
“Mayor Tory said he would be going door to door to urge the province to reverse these retroactive cuts and he meant that,” Tory spokesperson Don Peat told the Star, adding the mayor plans to eventually canvass all 11 PC-held Toronto ridings, including Ford’s Etobicoke North.
“He will be letting residents in those ridings know the facts about these cuts that, so far, their MPPs are publicly supporting,” Peat said, adding Tory has offered to work with the province to find future efficiencies that don’t hurt core services if they stop their “retroactive, misguided cuts this year.”
“So far, they continue to reject that offer,” Peat said.
Tory is also using Doors Open Toronto to hammer home his message. Visitors to his office at city hall during the festival this weekend will see posters outlining the cuts and encouraging them to sign the petition and to encourage others to do likewise.
The moves escalate Tory’s campaign that, so far, has been met with refusals and accusations from Ford and his MPPs that the city is inflating figures, fear-mongering and refusing to find internal efficiencies to cover the costs of the provincial cuts without reducing services or raising taxes.
Cutting grants to municipalities is vital to Ontario’s deficit-cutting efforts, Ford has said.
Toronto’s offensive includes an online petition the mayor is urging Torontonians to sign, www.toronto.ca/stopthecuts, which the city says got 25,000 signatures in its first three days.
Toronto’s mayor is joined by others across the province, including members of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario, who issued a statement Friday after meeting in Guelph, saying their communities also face service cuts or tax hikes because of the unexpected downloading.
“Big-city mayors from across Ontario continue to be alarmed about the province’s unilateral, retroactive cuts to municipal funding after cities have already passed our budget,” says the statement from LUMCO chair Cam Guthrie, the mayor of Guelph.
“We are also united in concern about (municipal planning reform) Bill 108, which could put at risk cities’ finances and ability to provide parkland, community facilities and well-planned neighbourhoods.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, who spoke to LUMCO members during their closed-door meeting, issued a statement later rejecting their pleas for a reversal of this year’s cuts and an extension of the time frame for municipalities to give feedback on the planning changes.
“I have heard their concerns about some of the decisions we’ve made and as a former mayor and CAO, I understand them,” Clark said. “That said, all that is being asked is to find roughly 1 per cent of their overall budget this year in efficiencies.
“My hope is that our municipal partners choose not to raise taxes on the people of Ontario and cut vital services and instead, take us up on our offer and have independent experts assist them in finding efficiencies.”
Peat said that until Ford’s cuts are reversed, Tory won’t stop telling Torontonians to “urge their local MPPs to stand up for Toronto.”
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider