Ford government upset with the Feds (what else is new?)

Wikipedia image of Don Fanucci a fictional character appearing in Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather and the 1974 film The Godfather Part II

Opinion by Dave Glover

This week Doug Ford threatened to introduce legislation at Queens Park to limit or outlaw direct funding by Ottawa to municipalities.

The thorn in his side is funding that bypasses the province’s overview.

In an effort to get public housing or at the very least affordable housing, the federal government wants to give funds directly to cities and towns in Ontario and across Canada.

In Ontario, the previous PC government under Mike (Common Sense) Harris chose to get out of the housing game when he downloaded the costs and responsibility to municipalities.

Harris claimed it was a neutral revenue swap but the move put the full weight of financial responsibility on cash-strapped municipalities who have limited taxing powers for raising revenue. The source for maintaining existing housing stock and funding new builds.

Dave Glover

The only big-dollar revenue lower tier governments can count on are property taxes and development fees.

At present, Ford has frozen fees leaving ratepayers on the hook for infrastructure upgrades and extensions into new subdivisions.

This is a squeeze point: municipal governments have no wiggle room financially, yet Ford says no raising taxes.

Over the past few weeks the Premier and his housing minister have referred to public housing being run along Communist Russia guidelines. He and his minister claim that such policies have been shown not to work.

Virtually all all public housing built in this province has been built by Progressive Conservative governments. From the administrations of Premier John Roberts to that of Premier Bill Davis, conservatives who have understood the value economically and socially of providing housing for those who struggle to afford it.

Is this current conservative government claiming that Bill Davis was a Communist?

Our present premier appears to favour leaving the chore of providing public housing to private developers who for the last thirty-plus years have built nothing affordable.

Such a track record of non-performance makes the recent rhetoric and threats from Ford ridiculous. The claim that Ottawa giving money directly to the cities is unwarranted jurisdictional creep is laughable given the province’s failure to address the housing issue for so long.

The province hasn’t, isn’t and apparently given its preference for expecting developers to build public housing, not going to build public or affordable housing. This PC government can’t even define affordability.

Like an old Mafia Don, Premier Ford appears to want his cut, a little something to “wet his beak” as Don Fanucci (a Mafia character in The Godfather movie) used to say…

With such wise guys at Queen’s Park, Ottawa and lower tier governments better watch out.

All over Northumberland, there is publicly owned land. Some of it federal and some provincial, much of it usable for immediate development. In Cobourg, we have the Brookside property. In Port Hope, there is available land, too. In both cases, serviceable land where infrastructure costs would be relatively low but…

I spoke with a source at Infrastructure Ontario who advised me that neither the County of Northumberland nor the Town of Cobourg have put in an offer or request to acquire the former Brookside property. Presumably, because the province isn’t receptive. In Port Hope, the massive Ontario Power Generation property continues to be very much available.

Maybe instead of throwing public tantrums about jurisdiction, the Ford/Piccini government should get over its ideological malaise and turn over some land to Cobourg and Port Hope so they can be put to good use. Like sites for affordable housing.

Instead of complaining about Ottawa offering financial assistance, for once, it could actually step up to the plate and deliver results. We all know building affordable housing isn’t a very sexy for developers who want to max out their saving accounts, but it is the business of provincial governments to get the job done.

Ford needs to get on board or get out of the way.

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