THUNDER BAY -- Ontario municipalities will be a given a brief reprieve from anticipated added costs that had been set to take effect this year as a result of provincial cuts and funding formula changes.
Premier Doug Ford on Monday announced that the Progressive Conservative government was backtracking on previously announced reductions to provincial payments for land ambulance, public health and child care services for the current fiscal year, those adjustments are expected to begin next year.
In a letter to heads of council, Ford said with municipal budgets already set, municipal leaders needed to have flexibility to achieve those savings.
"Getting Ontario back on a path to balance is essential for protecting important government services, long-term prosperity, attracting investment and creating good-paying jobs," Ford said.
"And we also believe that every government needs to step up and do its part; there is only one taxpayer, and the job of finding savings while protecting core services rests with every elected official in Ontario."
Ford, who made the announcement in Queen's Park alongside Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, said the government's approach to delay the adjustments is meant for municipalities to use the additional time to work with the government to "transform critical shared public services and find the efficiencies that will ensure their sustainability.
In a report to Thunder Bay city council earlier this month, city administration estimated a cost ranging between $330,000 and $515,000 if the land ambulance services grant was frozen to 2018 levels.
The Ford government's plan to overhaul the province's public health system not only includes consolidating the province's 35 public health units to 10 regional entities, but also decreasing its portion of the cost sharing agreement, which would result in the current 75-25 ratio becoming a 70-30 split with Thunder Bay.
The cost sharing agreement for child care expansion plan funding and early years and child care administration are also set to shift.
Thunder Bay city treasurer Linda Evans said the government's announcement is welcomed news.
"Throughout the year we would have had to try to continually assess our service levels and the impact on future budgets as well," Evans said in an interview with CKPR Radio.
"Certainly, we're all continually trying to identify savings given the environment we're in. When we're developing the 2020 budget, council will be responsible for identifying areas where potential cuts might be needed given our reduced funding from the province."