Shomporko Desk:-TORONTO – Ontario won’t settle for a “bad deal” with regards to billions in required financial aid for municipalities, Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday, as the rift between the province and the federal government over urgently required municipal subsidizing seemed to broaden.
Portage said he is involved in active talks with Ottawa to make sure about subsidizing for municipalities strapped for cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Municipal leaders said recently that an aid package from both upper levels of government is expected to prevent tax increases and service cuts.
The premier said he is not eager to agree to the current government offer since it is in excess of a billion dollars shy of what’s expected to help shore up Ontario communities.
“If I walked away, the municipalities wouldn’t be too happy with the amount that the federal government’s offering right now,” Ford said.
The premier said Ontario represents 38 per cent of Canada’s population, and he believes it should receive the equivalent to that in the federal deal.
“I don’t rush a bad deal,” he said.
Some municipalities have expressed frustration in recent months that they are stuck in the middle of a lingering standoff between the federal and Ontario governments over the aid package.
The municipal leaders have said $10 billion is needed for communities across the country, including Ontario, and federal and provincial governments must resolve their differences before cuts and fee hikes are needed.
A spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the federal government recognizes municipalities face serious financial pressures.
“We have offered $14 billion to support Canadians and we hope we can soon conclude an agreement with all the premiers that will ensure this funding is delivered to those who need it,” Katherine Cuplinskas said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Ford’s government introduced a sweeping new piece of legislation Wednesday it said will help the province’s economy recover from the pandemic.
The omnibus bill – dubbed the COVID-19 Recovery Act – proposes to change 20 pieces of current legislation that govern the province’s schools, municipalities, and justice system.
Ford defended the bill and said it will help change an environmental assessment process that has been on the books for decades.
The 188-page bill also includes measures announced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce this week to end school suspensions for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 3.
Clark said with limited days of sitting at the provincial legislature, it made sense to combined the different changes into one package.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the bill isn’t actually a pandemic recovery plan at all and is short on rent relief, solutions for long-term care, and details on schools required to truly help Ontarians.
“I’m worried that Doug Ford is using the COVID-19 recovery as cover to plow ahead with changes that have nothing at all to do with recovering from this pandemic,” she said.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said changing environmental regulations is not necessary to get the economy moving.
“Caring for nature, farmland and water is a vital part of the economic recovery, not something we sacrifice,” he said in a statement.
The government also tabled a motion on Wednesday to extend the province’s state of emergency until July 24.
The current state of emergency declared at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire July 15.
Ford’s office said the government wants to extend the measure to ensure there is no gap between that declaration ending and a new bill extending Ontario’s emergency measures taking effect.
Photo credit: The Canadian Press
News source: The Canadian Press