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FORUM: Ford plows ahead with cuts (Dec. 2019)

December 9th, 2019 · No Comments

Back at Queen’s Park, Ford resumes his agenda

By Jessica Bell

After ordering the longest break in almost 25 years, Doug Ford finally let Queen’s Park get back to business last month. While the government signalled they would take a more tempered approach, the legislation the government has introduced shows the premier is continuing his destructive path. 

Doug Ford has frozen public sector wages to below the rate of inflation for the next three years. There are many public sector workers who struggle on less than $40,000 a year, including sessionals at the University of Toronto, childcare workers at our day care centres, and personal care workers at our hospitals and long-term care homes.  This move hurts them. 

Ford’s cuts to classrooms continue. His government is pushing forward with its plan to eliminate 10,000 teaching positions and increase class sizes. His cuts are pushing educators and school boards to a breaking point. Last week, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) announced they are cutting the Kindergarten Intervention Program – a special program that provides additional support to young children with special needs who may have been violent or aggressive in class. These children will no longer have access to a small learning environment, and will be placed back in classrooms with up to 30 other children. 

Despite his promises to build more transit, Ford has cut $18.5 billion from the Ontario Government’s five-year capital plan for transit, which will mean his transit projects will see construction delays. He has also cut the subsidy to transit agency, Metrolinx, by 36%. Over the past few months, GO bus service has been cut, and we expect to see the elimination of the $1.50 discount GO riders receive when they board the TTC. 

The Conservatives’ Fall Economic Statement announced even further cuts, including $25 million from Environment, Conservation, and Parks, and $330 million from Justice – particularly Legal Aid. 

The government also introduced the Plan to Build Ontario Together Act – an omnibus bill that includes amendments to the Planning Act that will make it harder for municipalities to levy community benefits charges on big developers. These charges are critical to ensuring developers pay for the services, community centres, daycares, and infrastructure to cater to the influx of people moving into our neighbourhoods.

Ford claims all these cuts are necessary in order to balance the books. Yet he has no problem throwing away Ontarians’ money when it comes to cancelling programs that his supporters don’t like. Just last week, the NDP discovered that Ford had spent at least $231 million of taxpayer money to cancel renewable energy projects – and then tried to bury the cut in public accounts. One of these projects is the White Pines Wind turbine project, which just happens to be located in Minister Todd Smith’s riding in Prince Edward County.

This feels a lot like a repeat of the last government’s gas plant scandal. It also shows just how far Ford will go to tear up plans he doesn’t like, regardless of the cost. 

But what’s maybe most concerning is that Ford is refusing to play by the rules. We recently found out that he’s trying to change the standing orders – which govern procedures in the legislature, and how bills become laws – in order to push through legislation more quickly. This means scrapping consultation requirements and opportunities for community members to provide feedback on new laws. Basically, he’s trying to get away with passing legislation without any public input. For a man who claims to be “for the people”, he doesn’t want to hear anything we have to say. 

Jessica Bell is the Member of Provincial Parliament for University-Rosedale. 

—With files from Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy.

READ MORE BY JESSICA BELL

Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion