TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford accused the provincial Liberals Thursday of trying to force the city to hike taxes, keep the land transfer tax and bring back the car tax.
Ford fired a few more shots in his ongoing funding fight with Premier Kathleen Wynne including a claim Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s office gave no advance warning the $150 million in provincial funding was being cut.
The mayor has spent a week raging at Wynne’s government in a bid to stop the cut that starts with a $50 million blow to the city’s 2014 budget.
“Just as we’re closing in on our (fiscal) goals, the province pulls the rug out from under us,” Ford said in a press conference. “They’re trying to force us to keep the land transfer tax. They’re trying to force us to increase taxes. They’re trying to force us to bring back the vehicle registration tax.
“Why should Toronto be forced to keep the land transfer tax by the province? Why do we have to bring back the car tax?”
Ford said he won’t support bringing back the car tax — which he successfully campaigned on cutting — and still wants to cut the land transfer tax by 10% — around $34 million — in the 2014 budget.
Behind the scenes Thursday, the mayor’s office also fired back at Sousa’s claim he had tried to have a “discussion” with Ford about the funding cut but didn’t hear back.
A mayor’s office official speaking on background provided e-mails showing first contact between Ford’s chief of staff and Sousa’s chief of staff was on June 13.
On that day, Sousa’s chief of staff left a voicemail for Earl Provost, Ford’s chief of staff, and a phone message with a receptionist before e-mailing Sousa’s letter detailing the funding cut to Provost.
Provost responded minutes later confirming he would respond when he read the letter.
A provincial source speaking on background said Provost was left a voicemail the next day but they didn’t hear back from him.
Provost responded by e-mail June 19 with Ford’s letter and a request from the mayor for a face-to-face meeting with Sousa.
The two eventually met on June 24 where Ford was told in the meeting the funding cut was a done deal and a “decision from cabinet.”
Ford came out of the meeting fuming and accusing Sousa of blindsiding the city.
But Sousa said he “initiated the discussion at the start.”
“I made a call to the mayor’s office, saying you’re going to receive a letter, I think it’s important for us to have a discussion relative to what’s in this letter and the net benefit that you’re going to have as a city but it’s important for us to have that discussion,” Sousa said. “Correspondence was made between my office and his office. Frankly, it’s up to the mayor to ask his staff why that didn’t happen.”
City manager Joe Pennachetti will be bringing a report to city council next month showing the impact of the funding cut which will start with a $50 million reduction in 2014.
Susie Heath, Sousa’s press secretary, issued a statement ahead of Ford’s press conference that said cutting funding for social housing is Ford’s choice.
“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 stated.
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