McGuinty vows to take back some social costs, if re-elected
The City of Ottawa will save $56 million over the next four years after the provincial government announced it would absorb some social services costs that municipalities now pay.
Premier Dalton McGuinty announced yesterday the Ontario government will “upload” the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Drug Benefits (ODB) at a price tag of $935 million annually. For Ottawa, the uploading to the province translates into between $14 million and $15 million per year in savings.
Municipalities have carried the costs since the previous Conservative government downloaded the services. And while Mayor Larry O’Brien’s office calls the promise a good first step, the mayor is still looking for a longer-term solution for other provincial services that municipalities are now paying.
There have been no decisions as to how savings will be spent, said a spokesman for the mayor, adding that the money will “go some way” towards O’Brien’s tax freeze pledge.
But critics of the Liberal government argue the announcement is simple electioneering and could have been made at budget time this past spring.
“There’s no bigger sign a government is in trouble than when they start throwing money around,” said Mike Patton, the Progressive Conservative candidate in Ottawa West-Nepean.
Patton, the mayor’s former communications director, concedes the uploading will be good for Ottawa and offset some budget pressures. But he’d prefer that the province prepare a long-term strategy that is more sustainable.
“We have to stop going through the cycle of municipalities falling into deficit and forced to ask the province for money,” he said.
Councillors such as Gord Hunter don’t care if the money is flowing as a result of electioneering, so long as it flows.
“This is very much appreciated and a positive step,” said Hunter. “It’s been an ongoing battle to get these types of services … back to the province.”
Hunter believes the money is coming because the province has its financial house in order and is now capable of covering more social services.
work still needs to be done