Wynne regime continues to replay Mike Harris abuses

Frank Touby—

Never forget that the Tories under Mike Harris downloaded any provincial responsibilities he could onto the municipalities.

During the dark era of Harris misgovernment and pandering to corporate campaign contributors, the cities and towns had to try to fund needed programs and their school systems suffered.

The well-to-do thrived and the bottom 99%, for whom government is supposed to provide services necessary to a civilized nation, went without.

That barely improved with the misgovernment of nominal liberal Dalton McGuinty who favoured developers and corporations over people he was mandated to serve.

Following along in the same corporatist perversion is Tory-esque Kathleen Wynne who continues the Mike Harris cutbacks. Remember how he gutted education? How his mismanagement and cost-cutting resulted in a water catastrophe in Walkerton, Ontario? It was Canada’s worst-ever E. coli contamination?

It claimed the lives of seven people and made 2500 others ill all because Mike Harris and his cohorts had better uses for our tax money than serving the taxpaying public.

Here’s a news release from Premier Kathleen Wynne’s administration explaining why Toronto’s new Mayor John Tory can stuff it regarding the province living up to its responsibilities to citizens. Note that it ends with a mention of  “Ontario’s fiscal plans,” not of Ontario’s responsibilities to the people it rules over and exploits.

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Charles Sousa, Wynne’s Minister of Finance, released the following statement regarding ongoing negotiations with the City of Toronto around provincial assistance to the city:

“The City of Toronto recently came to the province with a request for financial assistance. After several weeks of negotiations, the city has rejected Ontario’s offer.

The province has worked diligently with the City of Toronto on an option for financial assistance which would have provided the City support in a way that did not have a fiscal impact on the province. We understand the City has decided to seek financing through other means. We respect that decision and look forward to working with the City as well as other municipalities in the future.

Provincial ongoing support to the city has increased significantly in recent years through investments that include:

Fully transferring the costs of the Ontario Drug Benefit Program and the Ontario Disability Support Program from the city to the province. In 2015, the province will continue to phase in the upload of Ontario Works benefits and court security costs from the city to the province. In 2015, the total benefit provincial uploads for Toronto is estimated at over $460 million or 12 per cent of the city’s property tax revenues.

Revenue from the provincial gas tax program and the province’s increased share of public health and land ambulance funding, estimated at almost $300 million in 2015.

Given this increased support, in 2013 the province announced that it would phase out Toronto Pooling Compensation over three years, beginning in 2014. This special provincial assistance to the city was initially designed to deal with past pressures from social benefit program costs now covered by the province. As additional support, the province forgave an outstanding loan owed to the province, the Toronto Debenture Loan, which provides significant financial benefit to the city worth more than $230 million by 2016.

The province is not reversing its decision on Toronto Pooling Compensation. Through the upload of social assistance benefit program costs to the province, the province has directly addressed the issue that pooling was designed to respond to—the pressure that those costs imposed on the city’s property tax base.

In 2013, the city achieved a budget surplus of $168 million and forecasts a budget surplus of approximately $100 million for 2014.

The province must make fiscally-responsible decisions as we implement our plan and work to balance our own budget by 2017-18.

While we recognize the unique challenges of Ontario’s largest city, any support must be consistent with Ontario’s fiscal plan. We will continue to build on our strong partnership with the city and make progress in areas of shared provincial-city interest, such as transit.”

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