NEWS

Mayor Ford doesn't see how Toronto can work with province

06/27/2013 02:15 EDT | Updated 08/27/2013 05:12 EDT
Three days after Mayor Rob Ford failed to persuade the province not to eliminate an annual transfer payment to Toronto, he remains just as frustrated with the way Queen's Park is treating the city.

"The province says we are partners, they want to work with us," Ford told reporters on Thursday morning.

"Unfortunately, folks, I don’t see that. I didn’t see it on Monday and I still don’t see how we can be partners."

The Ontario government says it will gradually phase out funding known as "pooling compensation," which Toronto had received for taking on the costs of providing social services years ago.

The funding is being phased out because the province is going to upload those costs, though city officials say they did not know this was happening until very recently.

Ford met with Finance Minister Charles Sousa on Monday, but the province did not budge from its plan to phase out the transfer.

"We tried to work out a compromise, but they did not come to the table to negotiate and this is very, very unfortunate," Ford said.

"By removing this crucial funding, the province is leaving Toronto behind and hurting the residents of this city."

Ford said he has asked the city manager to prepare a special report, which will be delivered to council in July.

"I want everybody, every single person to understand the effect these funding cuts will have, so we can start to brace for the impact," he said.

Ford has warned that some of Toronto's most vulnerable residents will suffer from cuts the city will have to implement as a result of the funding shift.

The mayor says the province advised him that the city has options to raise revenue, which he said amounts to using taxes he has pledged to cut.

"Just as we’re closing in on our goals, the province pulls the rug from under us," Ford said.

"They're trying to force us to keep the land-transfer tax. They are trying to force us to increase taxes. They're trying to force us to bring back the vehicle-registration tax."

The city manager, Joe Pennachetti, said Toronto was already facing a $200-million budget pressure next year. The drop in funding from the province only "exacerbates an already difficult problem," he told reporters Thursday.

Toronto has choices, government says

Susie Heath, the finance minister’s press secretary, reiterated the government’s position Thursday that the mayor doesn't have to raise taxes.

"As we've said all along, the city has choices," Heath said in a statement.

"Cutting funding for social housing is a choice the mayor is making, just as he has chosen not to benefit from land transfer or vehicle registration powers that he holds under the City of Toronto Act." Heath said "we are confident that the mayor will make the right choices to represent the diverse needs of this wonderful city."

A pair of Toronto councillors said they believe the city should make use of the powers it has to collect the revenues it needs to provide key services.

"The tools we need to stand on our own as a city and the tools we need to actually provide the services to build a stronger Toronto are right here at city hall," Coun. Adam Vaughan told reporters Thursday.

Coun. Ana Bailao said that it’s difficult for the city to push the province for more money when it is cutting taxes.

"We should always fight for Toronto and for good services in Toronto, but we can't fight to have more funds while saying 'I'm going to cut taxes,' while we have so many pressures in the city of Toronto," she told CBC News on Thursday.

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