Mayor Cam Guthrie has come out hard against the premier’s call for cities to find millions in efficiencies since it was announced on Tuesday, saying that for Guelph, there is no more to cut.
Premier Doug Ford offered $7.35 million to the municipalities and school boards of Ontario to work with a third-party audit to shave 4 cents off of every dollar as the province makes cuts to balance the budget.
On April 30, Guthrie wrote a letter on behalf of the large-city Ontario mayors criticizing the Progressive Conservative government for essentially handing down responsibilities and associated costs to municipalities.
But this is the case of a conservative mayor, who has carried out several well-supported cost-cutting service reviews at the municipal level, now being told to cut even more by another conservative government.
The moves by the province are coming after cities across Ontario have already passed their annual budgets. Guthrie said Ford’s audits do not address the cuts that Guelph now faces, putting the city in a tough spot.
Though he did not respond to a request for comment from The Post, he told the Mercury Tribune that Council has few options to raise cash.
“No. 1, we can raise taxes or raise fees; No. 2, cutting services; No. 3, going in reserves. Cities cannot carry deficits, they must balance their books every year. I wish upper levels of government took that same perspective.”
“Or No. 4 would be to delay or pause capital and infrastructure projects in the city,” he added. This could include initiatives such as the new Baker St. parking lot transformation to a public library or the south end recreation centre.
Guthrie added that he found it “odd that the government wants to give money to municipalities…to find what he defines as efficiencies, when we are already doing that.”
The mayor told the Guelph Mercury “that, to me, would be a duplication of services. And isn’t a duplication of service an inefficiency?”
Many conservative mayors across the province are asking the same questions right now. For leaders like Guthrie, who have already streamlined and balanced budgets for municipalities, this puts them in a tough position.
Guelph elected a Green member of provincial parliament last June, defiantly shutting down the PC Party candidate Ray Ferraro, and Mike Schreiner was quick to blast the premier for his moves, calling it “more political theatre.”
“The Ford government levelled mid-year cuts to municipal budgets at the last minute, without consultation, forcing local decision-makers into incredibly tough situations that jeopardize core services like public health and child care,” Schreiner said in a in a statement.
The Green Party leader added that Ford’s audit fund would not be enough for effective work, pointing to line-by-line audits done by Toronto in 2011 to 2012 that cost $3.5 million for $16 million, well below the estimated savings.
The City of Toronto audits were done under the administration of Ford’s late brother Rob Ford.