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TORONTO STAR

How to sell a condo to Millennials in Vancouver: With a side of free avocado toast (jeu., 25 avril 2019)
Vancouver’s real-estate market has imploded, so now you can get a $400,000 condo with a side of avocado toast. A Metro Vancouver developer is enticing Millennials to buy one of its 116 condos at a Coquitlam project by reducing the down payment to just 10 per cent from the customary 15 or 20 per cent and offering a year’s supply of free avocado toast. “Saving for a down payment does require some saving and sacrificing,” said Jamie Howard, president of Woodbridge Homes. “At the Kira project, we say you can have your avocado toast and eat it too.” Vancouver’s real estate market is known globally for its sky-high prices, a phenomenon that peaked in June of 2016 and made some homeowners millionaires, but left many residents locked out of the housing markets and facing rising rents and increasing evictions. The real-estate slowdown was one of the reasons cited by the Bank of Canada in its Wednesday decision to keep the benchmark interest rate at 1.75 per cent. In its decision, the Bank of Canada also slashed its 2019 growth forecast for the Canadian economy to 1.2 per cent, down from its January forecast of 1.7 per cent. The bank cited “weaker-than-anticipated housing” as one of the causes for its lower forecast, and also hinted at the prospect of interest rate cuts. In Vancouver, other condo developers have offered to pay for interior decorating, several months of strata fees or even cover some mortgage payments. One realtor who is trying to resell a presale contract at the original purchase price is even offering a $100,000 “credit from developer upon completion,” according to an email she sent to other realtors that was obtained by the Star. The avocado toast is a tongue-in-cheek reference to an infamous 2017 comment from an Australian real-estate developer who counselled young people to stop buying the expensive hipster breakfast item if they wanted to be able to afford a house. It became a potent internet meme for young people who face lower wages, higher debt loads and much higher housing prices than their parents’ generation did. The freebies are a sign of a market in decline in a city that not long ago had the hottest real estate in the country. A series of provincial taxes aimed at real-estate speculation, the federal mortgage stress test requirement and increased capital controls imposed by the Chinese government have slammed the brakes on the market. Developers who previously saw lineups of eager would-be buyers are now reaching deep into their bags of tricks as they face new challenges in the world of condo pre-sales. A presale is when a buyer signs a contract to purchase a condo unit before the building is complete, usually putting down 15 to 20 per cent of the final purchase price. Presales are crucial for developers so they can secure the financing they need to actually build their project. With falling valuations and the new mortgage stress test that is making it harder for some borrowers to qualify for mortgages, there’s a risk some buyers may not be able to come up with the money to complete the deal they signed up for. “You had a lot of buyers that were optimistic prices would keep rising, and some of them don’t have the financial capacity to close on them,” said Steve Saretsky, a Vancouver-based realtor. “Trying to flip (pre-sales) is becoming a lot tougher.” Although condo prices have fallen by 5.2 per cent in Metro Vancouver over the past year according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, Howard said he’s fairly confident the prices offered on the Kira project will stay competitive. The region’s economy has been strong, with the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, and is expected to add around 40,000 people a year over the next decade. At the Coquitlam property, the one-bedroom units start at $399,900, two bedrooms at $499,000 and three-bedroom apartments at $649,900. Before the Vancouver real-estate bubble burst, the condo pre-sales market was particularly speculative in nature, said Ryan Lalonde, president of MLA Canada, a condo marketing firm. After British Columbia’s first foreign buyer tax was introduced in July 2016, single-family home sales slowed and properties began to decline in value. But condos got a second win for a time, before they also saw declining sales and dropping value. “So many of the (buyers) were purchasing with the assumption that real estate is as liquid as cash, and as a result we’ll always be able to assign properties,” Lalonde said, referring to the practice of flipping pre-sales contracts, or assignments, before the building completes and the end owner has to obtain a mortgage and pay GST on the new home. It’s a trick of human nature, Lalonde said, to believe that what happens today will happen tomorrow, and he believes many buyers did not really consider what could happen “if our market changed from double-digit returns to single- or net-negative appreciation, how difficult it could be to move an assignment, and I think that’s where we are today.” As for that Coquitlam condo that comes with the avocado toast, Howard said it’s actually a gift card to a local restaurant with enough credit on it to pay for one breakfast a week for a year. And no, you don’t have to order the avocado toast. Jen St. Denis is a Vancouver-based reporter covering affordability and city hall. Follow her on Twitter: @jenstden
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Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott say Liberals have ‘fallen back’ on grand Indigenous pledges (Thu, 25 Apr 2019)
RICHMOND, B.C.— Expelled Liberals Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott called out their former government over Indigenous rights on Wednesday, adding to the pair’s previous criticisms that plunged Ottawa into scandal. In their first public speech together since their ouster on April 2, Wilson-Raybould and Philpott pointed to a lack of progress on “urgent” crises that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to tackle. “My fear and disappointment,” Wilson-Raybould told the audience at the First Nations Provincial Justice Forum in Richmond, B.C., “is that … the federal government has fallen back once again into a pattern of trying to ‘manage the problem’ with Indigenous people and make incremental and limited shifts rather than reforming the status quo.” Wilson-Raybould, former attorney general, and Philpott, former Indigenous services minister, resigned from their cabinet positions over allegations the Prime Minister’s Office attempted to meddle in the corruption and fraud prosecution of Quebec-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. But in her speech to the justice conference, the former attorney general focused on her unsuccessful attempts to get more action on Indigenous issues during her time in government. She said that despite Trudeau’s “historic” promise in February 2018 to create a framework for recognizing Indigenous rights, significant progress has not been made. “This is something that a little over a year ago I expected was going to happen imminently,” Wilson-Raybould said. Read more: Exclusive: Wilson-Raybould ‘absolutely ready’ for next salvo in SNC-Lavalin affair After Liberals boot Wilson-Raybould and Philpott, ex-Liberal director for B.C. says it’s Trudeau who should go From taking on teachers to running with bulls, Wilson-Raybould was raised to challenge power “While steps forward are being taken, they are not happening as coherently, systematically or quickly as is needed.” Still, Wilson-Raybould remains optimistic, saying Canadians want to address the way the country has failed to follow its own rule of law when it comes to recognizing Indigenous rights and title. She cited many times when First Nations have had to fight for their rights to land, which are already enshrined in Canadian law. She noted that “Canadians from coast to coast” are starting to understand the need for change after the “tragic cases” of slain Indigenous teens Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. The deaths reignited public debate on how Indigenous people are treated by society and the justice system. “The lifeblood of colonization is written in the laws of this country,” she said. “We need to ensure with respect to justice … our voices must be heard and these policies and laws are based on recognition, not denial.” Philpott, meanwhile, addressed the urgent need for housing and educational infrastructure on First Nations reserves, saying she was “aghast” at what she learned during her time as Indigenous services minister. Philpott also briefly addressed the SNC-Lavalin scandal, saying “we will look back at this year and we will see democracy has been strengthened.” In February, Wilson-Raybould alleged in testimony before a House of Commons committee she was subjected to “veiled threats” and months of “partisan pressure” to overrule her independent prosecutors’ decision to pursue charges against SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau initially called the story “false,” then accused Wilson-Raybould of failing to raise her concerns with him last fall, before admitting she had spoken to him about why she opposed intervening in an independent decision. Trudeau, who is a member of Parliament in Quebec, later said the prosecution would have cost up to 9,000 jobs in the province if the firm was convicted and thus banned from bidding on federal contracts for 10 years. Wednesday’s convention featuring the pair, organized by the First Nations Justice Council, addressed proposals to reform the country’s justice system to address the persistent overrepresentation of Indigenous people in courts and prisons. Following the talk, Wilson-Raybould added that she was still talking with her constituents in her Vancouver-Granville riding and was likely not done with public life. “I look forward making some decisions in the near future,” she told reporters. “I believe that my time in politics is not over.” David P. Ball is a Vancouver-based reporter covering democracy and politics. Email him or follow him on Twitter: @davidpball Cherise Seucharan is a Vancouver-based reporter covering health, civil liberties and safety/youth. Email her or follow her on Twitter: @CSeucharan
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The sunshine list you don’t know about: It’s for Ontario horse racing and tops out at $751,000 (Wed, 24 Apr 2019)
Ontario’s Sunshine List, an annual accounting of public sector workers making $100,000 or more, may not be the final word on well-paid talent in the province. There is a second, lesser-known list — one exclusively for the live horse-racing industry. The struggling sport, on the public dime after a slots revenue-sharing deal with the province ended in 2013, is subsidized by Doug Ford’s budget-slashing government by up to $105 million annually over the next 19 years. This funding is for racetrack operations and purse support, according to the finance ministry. Three chefs, two track announcers and Woodbine Entertainment Group’s president and CEO Jim Lawson are among the 69 people on the racetracks’ pay chart. Lawson’s 2018 salary of $751,524 would put him in Ontario’s top 10 wage earners if the horse-racing information were integrated with the broader Sunshine List. Of the 69 people, 62 work at Toronto-based Woodbine Entertainment, one of North America’s largest horse racing and gaming operations. Collectively, executives and employees from six of Ontario’s 15 racetracks earned about $11 million last year. The horse-racing document was quietly released by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. on March 27 — the same day the Treasury Board Secretariat published the Sunshine List, which can be searched by name and employer. Racetrack funding flows directly from OLG revenues. “Our government understands the importance of horse racing to our local communities,” Treasury Board spokesperson Hayden Kenez said in an emailed response to disclosure questions. “That is why we continue to support the industry in Ontario.” Are there any more lists? Hard to say. The government would not tell the Star if it had a central registry to track all programs with funding requirements tied to public salary disclosures. Instead, individual ministries would have to be contacted to determine if those ministries had funding agreements with wage-reporting stipulations. “Treasury Board Secretariat is responsible for public sector salary disclosure as required by the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act (PSSDA),” said finance ministry press secretary Robert Gibson in an emailed statement. “With respect to salary disclosure in the horse racing industry, the Transfer Payment Agreement between each racetrack and OLG requires disclosure of salaries over $100,000,” Gibson continued. “Any other public sector salary disclosure beyond that which is required by the (PSSDA) would be dependent on the program and the ministry responsible for the funding.” The horse-racing list isn’t secret. It’s been around since 2014. But it’s not publicized. Just to find it, one would first have to know two things: that the list existed, and that it’s posted on the OLG website. Nor is horse racing’s wage information searchable via the treasury board’s online Sunshine List tool. That’s because the industry is not considered subject to the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, according to treasury board and the finance ministry. But the distinction can be confusing. Sunshine Listers work for organizations — such as government, hospitals, school boards, Crown agencies and “other public sector employers” — that are subject to the PSSDA. Although the OLG displays horse racing’s wage reporting as “PSSDA 2018 Salary Disclosure List” and each racetrack is categorized as “other public sector employers” on the document, the horse-racing industry does not fall under the act, according to Kenez. “As a provincial crown agency, OLG is required to post the salaries of transfer payment recipients under the Horse Racing Partnership Funding Program … on behalf of government,” Kenez wrote in an email. “There is a clause in the Transfer Payment Agreement … with each racetrack that states: Where the recipient is not subject to the PSSDA, the recipient shall disclose the amount of salary and benefits paid in the previous year by the employer to or in respect of any employee, associated with the racetrack, to whom the employer paid at least $100,000 in salary,” Kenez continued. “The recipient consents to the public disclosure of this information and to sharing of this information with other crown agencies.” The government does not intrude on the daily operations of Ontario’s 15 racetracks. Kenez said “staffing decisions, including salaries, are made by the individual racetracks that are responsible for their own business decisions.” While on government support, the number of workers on horse racing’s payroll disclosures has increased to 69, up from 42 in 2014. At Woodbine Entertainment Group, often referred to as WEG, the number has nearly doubled, from 33 on the 2014 list to 62 last year. After Dalton McGuinty’s government announced in 2012 it was killing the lucrative, long-running slots sharing program with the racing industry, the province began supporting the sport under Kathleen Wynne, with the proviso that salaries over $100,000 be made public. Public funding was to help racetracks eventually become self-sustaining. Horse racing’s initial salary disclosures were posted by the Ontario Racing Commission (now dissolved) and since 2016, have been posted by OLG. Jamie Dykstra, WEG’s director of communications, said in an email there are three main reasons 62 WEG employees appear on the latest salary disclosure document. He said the Sunshine List hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since inception in 1996 and if it had, “today the Sunshine list would report salaries above $152,000.” So “most organizations will have more people on the Sunshine List than they previously would have.” Secondly, Dykstra said after the slots program was cancelled, WEG was “required to (re-evaluate) its overall business, strategy and corporate structure to ensure long-term viability and sustainability of the horse racing industry which employs upwards of 45,000 people throughout the province. “A big part of the strategy to sustain the industry is to diversify the business and create new revenue streams through the development of the nearly 700 acres of land Woodbine Entertainment owns,” Dykstra continued, referring to the operation’s land parcel in Rexdale. “This type of evolution of a business requires new leadership and expertise in many areas like operational management, property development, project management, technology, marketing, etc. Through these efforts, Woodbine Entertainment fully expects to become self-sustaining” within five years. Lastly, Dykstra said WEG launched a performance-based incentive program after 2014 “to help recruit and retain talented employees and remain competitive in the marketplace to support the business strategy.” He explained that “some of those whose annual base salary falls under $100,000 appear on this list due to achieving their goals and receiving an incentive payout.” A WEG compensation committee, steered by a charter posted on the track’s website, determines salary and compensation and “every year, the company obtains an independent third-party report on wage trends and merit increase projections and bases its decision on this guidance,” he said. Dykstra also emphasized: “It is important to note that the government funding Woodbine Entertainment receives may only be used exclusively to fund purse payments to racing participants. Government funding is not used for staff or executive compensation.” Finance’s Gibson said “over time, government support will decrease, allowing the industry to build on a sustainable model of self-management.” Woodbine Entertainment Group has 2,000 employees working at horse-racing tracks in Toronto (for thoroughbreds at Woodbine Racetrack) and Campbellville (for standardbreds at Woodbine Mohawk Park). Besides the two tracks, WEG operates nearly two dozen restaurants and bars within those facilities; WEGZ Stadium Bar in Vaughan; 57 off-track betting locations in bars and restaurants across Ontario; an in-house broadcast department of 65 people that will produce 354 race cards this year; and a “growing global wagering business that distributes our content in more than 20 countries,” Dykstra stated. WEG is an Ontario corporation without share capital, which means “after paying expenses, monies are invested back into horse racing to help sustain the industry in Ontario,” said Dykstra. Other items of note on the horse-racing disclosures: Seven people on the list from five racetracks other than WEG earned less than $160,000 each — John Stolte, the general manager of Flamboro Downs, made the most at $158,112; there are three chefs (two from WEG at $111,954 and $138,654 and one at $124,615 from Ottawa’s Rideau Carleton Raceway); at Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, Ontario’s only other thoroughbred track after Woodbine, Tom Valiquette earns $144,999 as chief operating officer and chief financial officer; while Jessica Buckley, the highest-paid woman, collects $234,611 as president of Woodbine Mohawk Park. Jim Thibert, CEO of Fort Erie, said in an email that “each track is its own business” and there are various ways to establish salaries. Thibert said he hired Valiquette about eight years ago and the two agreed on a salary. Valiquette is the only Fort Erie worker on horse racing’s public sector salary disclosure list. Fort Erie is owned by an American company “who lease us the land as we are the ones licensed to race, and (the track is) a not-for-profit corporation” that answers to a board of directors, said Thibert. The Prince of Wales Stakes, one of the jewels in the Canadian Triple Crown, is run at Fort Erie. James Martin is the general manager of the track at Grand River Agricultural Society, which has 16 full-time staff. (It grows to about 100 during the summers, when standardbred horses race.) Martin, who worked at WEG for nearly 20 years, made $130,439 in 2018, while his chief financial officer, Helen Bogl, earned $106,420. Martin said a volunteer board determines compensation. On March 21, the Ford government announced it was “supporting rural communities through new investments to help the province’s horse racing industry create and protect good jobs.” That initiative provides $10 million a year “to support programs for breeders and horse people through the Horse Improvement Program (HIP). This will support breeding and industry development for Ontario-bred horses and will be administered by Ontario Racing.” This is in addition to the annual $105 million. Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: mormsby@thestar.ca
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Rosie DiManno: A new Jay day is coming with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. making his debut Friday (Thu, 25 Apr 2019)
Arriving in the Blue Jays clubhouse and eyeballing a dozen-odd media mooks — a larger-than-usual contingent of baseball chroniclers in these D-List days — Joe Biagini asks the reflexive question: “Whoa, is Vlad Jr. here?” Luke Maile, from his locker cubicle chair, fields that one. “Nah, he’s still on the plane.” De plane! De plane! He was kibitzing but he wasn’t wrong either. Everyone is waiting for Vladdy G. Jr. Waiting for the princeling’s Major League Baseball debut. Waiting to exhale. Well, V-Day has come. With a big post-game breath in-out, Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo finally delivered the words everybody has been eagerly, impatiently, expecting. Drum roll please. Read more: Blue Jays calling up top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Why Vlad Guerrero has to pass the Meacham test before joining Blue Jays Vlad Guerrero plays the Blue Jays call-up game at a big-league level “All right guys, I have an announcement to make,” the skipper teased, and only after he’d bandied a respectful number of questions from reporters about his team’s 4-0 Saturday matinee loss to the Giants. “Uhhh, we’re planning to call Vladdy Guerrero up for Friday’s game. All right? We’re planning to.” So, like, will the Second Coming VGJ — literally, the second coming of Vladimir Guerrero Sr. — the larger-than-life No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, the franchise gem and corporate meal-ticket, actually play in the weekend opener versus Oakland? “Will he play? Yeesss.” It has been like pulling teeth out of this organization, getting the lowdown on Guerrero, dangled out there as an enticement, then reeled back in. Anticipated around mid-April, when the service clock on team control juddered — that extra year of Jays bondage before free agency kicks in — yet held annoyingly at bay. To wit: This tweet early Wednesday evening from Buffalo teammate Bo Bichette, now out with a busted hand. “You’ve become like a brother to me and I can’t wait to watch you play. Wayyyyyy overdue. Yo te amo.” Junior flashed a honking huge clue too, even before Montoyo confirmed what had been widely speculated — just one more sleep and ta-da. Guerrero yesterday afternoon changed his Instagram bio to “Toronto Blue Jays.” Social media also threw up, you should forgive the expression, phone video of Guerrero in his slippers and capri pants, getting high-fived in a hallway corridor. “It’s a big moment for the Toronto Blue Jays,” Montoyo said. “It’s going to be good for all of us — the city of Toronto, Blue Jays, the organization.” Makes it sound like an investiture. One might almost pity 20-year-old Vladdy, given all this hype and drooling anticipation. Except he’s clearly just jiggy with it. Expectations roll off his broad back, drip like beads of sweat from his peroxide-tip dreadlocks. Montoyo has been asked the question six ways from Sunday: When? When? When? Hardly as if it was the manager’s call, though. That would be an executive order. And they’ve put out endlessly shape-shifting explanations for the Vlad delay: Not MLB-ready, still working on his preparations, his reps, his routines, his at-bats. Too fat. He is, purportedly, some 10 pounds lighter now than he was at spring training. We’ll all see on Friday — press conference scheduled — because Thursday is an off-day for the team. A few dubious reporters wondered if Guerrero was actually already in Toronto, following his ridiculously early (10:30) Triple-A Buffalo game against the Syracuse Mets. “He’s not here yet,” Montoyo promised. “He’s not in my office hiding behind my congas.” In fact, Montoyo had yet to speak with Guerrero, whom he’d last seen in spring training before the big, bouncing, baby Blue Jay strained an oblique muscle and disappeared from the major-league camp. “It’s not my job to talk to him,” Montoyo said. “I’ll talk to him when he gets here.” That break-the-news square-up belonged to Buffalo manager Bobby Meacham and Gil Kim, the director of player development. “Just like I used to do when I was in Triple-A,” Montoyos said. “I wouldn’t take that moment away from them.” Montoyo had spoken at some length about the dawning of the Vladdy Era in his pre-game confab with beat writers, touched off by breaking news about the kid having just belted his third home run of the season, in his eighth 2019 game with the Bisons — a turbocharged swat over the right field fence, going the other way, in a game that Buffalo would win on the soon-to-be-ex-Bison’s seventh-inning, go-ahead solo shot. He was hitting .367 with 8 RBIs in 30 at-bats, and had just played three games in a row for the first time this season. “He hit a home run today?” Montoyo asked, with a big grin splitting his face. “You know, the funny thing about it, I haven’t seen him play. I just, I hear everything from everybody else. Which I believe what people say. But that’s the only time I saw him, in spring training, the 20 at-bats that I saw. “But, yeah, I think he’ll come here and do well, for sure.” The skipper hasn’t decided where Vladdy will hit in the lineup. He hasn’t decided who will come out of that lineup to make way for Guerrero, slotted for third base and some DH. Any roster adjustments will be announced on Friday. It could be an easier call if Freddie Galvis, whose Iron Man streak of 349 games came to an end Wednesday, goes on the IL with his sore hamstring. (And it really does deserve a pause, a salute, now that it’s over. Which is why Montoyo gave Galvis a man-hug after the game. “I told him I’m proud of him and I’m very lucky to have you as one of my players. You should be proud of yourself. And he thanked me. Now we have to see how he feels in a couple of days.” The only advice Montoyo, who sent so many future stars into The Show when he was managing in Triple-A, could summon for Guerrero: “Just relax and play. Just like I told you at spring training. And he will. He’s an easy kid to talk to.” Trivia factoid, from Wednesday starter and loser Clay Buchholz who looked jim-dandy out of chute, nine-up nine-down against the Giants before a leadoff single in the fourth: “I told (Guerrero) that his dad was the first hit that I gave up in the big leagues,” Buchholz said. Buchholz had stayed in Dunedin at the start of the year to rehab, and Guerrero was there in extended spring training. “I got to see a little bit of him when I was down in Florida, when the team left. He’s pretty special. It was fun to watch him in the box. I actually pitched to him a couple of times. He definitely hit a really hard ball off of me.” Buchholz is among the few active moundsmen who could draw a pitch bead on Guerreros Jr. and Sr. “His dad swung at everything. I think he has a little bit better eye than his dad.” New Jays Day dawning — Friday. Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno
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Edward Keenan: Ford government should at least have the guts to own up to their public health cuts (Thu, 25 Apr 2019)
Travis Kann came all the way down to city hall to accuse Councillor Joe Cressy of spreading misinformation, and then he fled when we asked him to provide any specific evidence to back it up. Kann, the spokesperson for Minister of Health Christine Elliott, said the provincial government didn’t want to fight this out in the press. Which is weird, since presumably the reason he crashed Cressy’s press conference was so he could tell the press that Cressy was “fear-mongering” by spreading inaccurate “misinformation.” But repeatedly asked — by Cressy, and by me, and by other reporters from a bunch of media outlets — to specify what exactly, in his estimation, the correct numbers were, he declined. And then walked briskly through a swarm of reporters trying to question him to get away. What Cressy, who is chair of the city’s public health department, had said at the press conference was pretty straightforward, with lots of specifics. He said the province has told the city it is cutting the funding to Toronto Public Health, effective immediately. Previously it has funded 75 per cent of the city department’s budget. That funding is going down to a 50 per cent share by 2021. Cressy says the immediate cut applying to this year’s budget is $64 million. He says beginning in 2021, it will be down by $102 million per year. $1 billion over 10 years. Mayor John Tory is using the same numbers as he also decries the cuts. Those are precise numbers, easily verified or debunked when this all comes out in the wash. Cressy says they were provided by the province to city officials. And they seem, on the surface, to align with the gist of what Premier Doug Ford said when he phoned in to a show on Global News Radio 640 on Tuesday and said the province was moving from funding 75 per cent of the department to 50 per cent of the department, which he dismissed as being the “folks who go around and go into restaurants and put the little stickers on saying it’s safe to eat.” The premier contrasted that with “the things that matter to people,” where he’d invest more money. But Kann, echoing the statements of his boss Christine Elliott, says they have it all wrong. These aren’t cuts at all! They’re merely “modernizing” by implementing a “shift to the cost-sharing funding model.” Kann said the province expects, given how big a priority the city says things like school nutrition programs and vaccinations and preventing epidemics of communicable diseases are, they expect these programs will not be cut at all. Now, I gotta say, this spokesperson for the gang that likes to call itself the Government for the People speaks in language that seems to resist being understandable by regular people. But when you wade through it, what he’s saying is that if the city cares so much about this stuff, they’ll pay for it despite the drastic provincial funding cut. And then he expects us to agree that means the province hasn’t made a cut at all. This is a bit of a theme emerging from the province’s time-bomb budget, in which the headlines were All Booze All the Time but the hangover has been a series of explosions in the funding programs of transit maintenance, legal aid, library services, and a host of other programs. No one in Ford’s government wants to take ownership of the obvious results of the decisions they are making. They don’t want to call cuts cuts, and they want to slough off responsibility for implementing those cuts onto someone else. Cressy says the cuts, when implemented, amount to $102 million per year. Kann and Elliott had refused, in email exchanges with the Star early Wednesday and at city hall, to offer a specific contrasting number, although they did say the “shift” should be “one-third of a percentage point of the City of Toronto’s annual budget.” Later in the afternoon, Kann confirmed to the Star that the province figures the cut will be $42 million per year when fully phased in. That’s still a lot of money for the city. You could also point out that number is less than one-third of one-tenth of one per cent of the province’s budget. Which seems like a rounding error. Whichever figures turn out to be right, the province is “shifting the cost-sharing funding model” in a way that means the city gets tens of millions of dollars per year less for these programs, and then insisting they haven’t cut the programs. Obviously, in response, the city can cut programs and take the blame for it, or they can slash something else to shift the funding over and take the blame for that, or they can raise property taxes about by 1.5 to 4 per cent and take the blame for that. Now, if push comes to shove, should the city do that? Three times Joe Cressy was asked if he thought the city should cover the gap, and three times he refused to answer, insisting the province should “do the right thing” and reverse the cut. I think, if the province doesn’t, the city should make up the difference, and raise the money through taxes if it needs to. I don’t think Cressy and the mayor and medical officer of health are exaggerating when they say public health spending saves lives. Even those stickers — actually posters, really — Ford scoffs at represent inspections of restaurant kitchens to prevent food poisoning, which I wouldn’t think is a frivolous waste of government resources. But if that happens, Ford and Elliott shoulder all the blame for forcing that on the city in an act of political cowardice. If they don’t have the heart to keep funding these programs, they could at least show the courage to own up to it. Edward Keenan is a columnist based in Toronto covering urban affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @thekeenanwire
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