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Ford government gave nearly $141-million to Tory ridings in rural communities amid budget cuts

Even as Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government planned to make significant cuts to municipal budgets across the province, it provided $200-million in unsolicited cash to rural communities, with 71 per cent of the money going to ridings represented by the party’s MPPs, a Globe and Mail analysis shows.

The one-time funding, handed to 405 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities, came two weeks before the spring budget, which contained cuts to municipal budgets for public health units and other programs. It also predates a call from Premier Doug Ford that all municipalities come up with 4 per cent in savings from their operational budgets to help the province tame its deficit.

The windfall funding was a welcome surprise to many small town mayors – some of whom say more than two months later that they have still not decided how to spend it.

According to a Globe analysis of how that $200-million was distributed, 70.8 per cent or nearly $141-million flowed to municipalities in ridings represented by government MPPs. Municipalities in NDP-held ridings received $36.2-million or 18.2 per cent of the money, while the Liberals – with just seven seats in the legislature – saw towns in their ridings receive $3.1-million or 1.6 per cent.

The PCs hold 73 of 124 seats at Queen’s Park, or 59 per cent.

The government says the money was distributed to rural municipalities based on size – not on how they voted. Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said the funds, which came with no conditions, were intended to help smaller municipalities find more efficient ways to spend.

“Those smallest and those most rural communities, we wanted to give them an incentive to actually have them look at providing those efficiencies,” Mr. Clark said. “I think larger urban communities have more resources to be able to accomplish this.”

If the ridings of Amanda Simard, Jim Wilson and Randy Hillier, who have left or been ejected from the governing caucus since the election, are included as PC ridings, 80 per cent of the funding went to municipalities that elected a Progressive Conservative last year.

News Credit – Globe and Mail

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