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Analysis

Ford Government Seeks Praise For Not Making All Of The Dangerous Cuts It Planned On Making

It's about the cuts Ford didn't make

Ontario’s ailing Ford government released its Fall ‘Fiscal Review’, yesterday, announcing $1.3 billion in “investments” — most of which only ease previously-announced cuts and attacks.

Doug Ford did not have a great first year as premier.

Despite repeatedly promising his government would be “responsible” — Ford’s government cut deep into funding for university students, disabled children, low-income families, refugees and more.

Now, his government is hoping to reset —  selling itself as “a government that listens.”

Whereas its 2018 Fall Economic statement laid the ground for deep cuts, its 2019 statement offers “investments.” But those investments generally don’t make up for the previous cuts.

For example, the statement promises $637 million in additional funding for children and social services. But that follows Ford’s budget cutting $1.3 billion from the ministry responsible for delivering those social services.

Within that, the 2019 statement promises a $310 million “investment” in social assistance. The statement reads this will go to “continuing support” for the Transition Child Benefit and not proceeding with social assistance clawbacks proposed late last year. Advocates warned repeatedly both proposed changes would drive significant increases in homelessness.

But this $310 million “investment” also follows its 2019 budget estimates cutting about $530 million from social assistance financial support alone.

The social services “investments” include $279 million for the province’s autism program, to make up for the massive backlash the government received for its changes to family support.

And, the statement promises an $186 million “investment” in education spending. But that’s without a word on its increases in average class sizes that could remove up to 6000 teachers from the province’s school systems.

The statement also insists the Ford government is “making tuition more affordable” for post-secondary students. It promises, among other changes, a tuition freeze in 2020-21.

But it says absolutely nothing about reversing the government’s deep cuts to student assistance. This past budget, the Ford government slashed education grants for low income students and eliminated the grace period for student loan interest.

Those cuts helped the government cut $649,965,300 from universities, colleges and student support in its 2019-20 budget estimates.

That included shaving estimated student financial assistance expenditure by over $413 million — to $1,372,212,100 from $1,785,912,100 in 2018-19 estimates.

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