If Ford Nation can’t get cash out of Premier McGuinty, could they squeeze it out of Premier Hudak?
We mentioned last week that Mayor Rob Ford is threatening to campaign against the Liberal government if Dalton McGuinty doesn’t cough up $150 million or so during the next budget. Here’s the thing: for this threat to actually mean anything, there would have to be a decent prospect that Tim Hudak, the leader of Ontario’s Tories, will come up with the money if he wins the election. (We are assuming here that Ford will not be campaigning for Andrea Horwath and the NDP. Call it a hunch.) So what is Hudak’s stance on money for Toronto?
Hudak was asked about this at a scrum on Monday after Ford’s $150 million letter came out, and, after musing that the Liberals are holding a grudge against Ford, Hudak said:
Obviously, the province always has ongoing programs when comes to capital projects, to the grants that go to municipalities. The reality of [the] day is that we can’t lose sight that there is only one taxpayer who is footing the bills.
Later in the week, he spoke a bit more about how cities need “a consistent and predictable funding model for municipal infrastructure instead of the orgy of spending before an election campaign.”
Hey, Tim, we agree, but at this point, we’re also interested in the orgy of pre-election spending, if we can get it. We’re still smarting from the province yanking a bunch of our Transit City funding.
The question, of course, is what Tim Hudak means when he talks about making funding “consistent and predictable.” (Zero dollars per year, say, is pretty consistent and predictable). In a recent speech, he seems to say that what he’s interested in is moving gas tax funding out of transit funding, so that small towns with no transit systems get some cash. This, of course, would make less money available for the biggest-ticket item in Ford’s letter to Queen’s Park: restoring Ontario’s cost-sharing agreement with the TTC.
If Ford does manage to squeeze money out of Premier Hudak sometime in the spring of 2012, we’ll welcome new money for the city. But we’re highly skeptical that Hudak has Toronto’s best interests in mind, and not just as a hold-over from the Harris years. Repeated attempts to reach Hudak or one of his municipal affairs critics went unanswered, so we couldn’t even ask point-blank, “Would you give Rob Ford the $150 million he’s asking for?”
We did discover, though, that one of the municipal affairs critics in Tim Hudak’s caucus is—wait for it—Bill Murdoch, the guy who thinks Toronto should be kicked out of Ontario. Murdoch won’t be running for re-election in October, but between that and the unanswered phone calls, not much here inspires confidence.
UPDATE (March 25, 9.11 a.m.): For clarification, the Ontario Tories have two municipal critics, Joyce Savoline and Bill Murdoch. While we continue to think it’s odd that Bill Murdoch is one of them (rural issues or no), it was not his office that failed to return phone calls, but rather the office of Joyce Savoline.