Ford Money: Funding Or Fake? BENN

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New operating funds, or just another example of accounting leger du main?

Ontario Premier Doug Ford came to Ottawa earlier this week, with the provincial cheque book in hand. The province is offering the city $197 million over  the next three years in operating funds. That works out to an average of about $66 million a year. But there are some strings attached. The city must direct the use of the funds to specific initiatives.

That’s not a problem. It is akin to parents giving their child tuition money. Not that the parents don’t trust their child’s judgment. No, it is to ensure that the money is used for an agreed purpose.

Here’s the rub. Ottawa’s 2024 budget has already been passed. The spending targets for various departments, programs and initiatives are already set. The sum of which reaches a $4.6 billion operating budget. The capital budget is a whole different animal. One for another column.


How will this incremental funding manifest itself in 2024? Are we to expect the spending component to rise by about $60 million plus? Or, can the city allocate these funds to cover the existing operating-budget shortfall? What shortfall you ask? Well, there is that perpetual draw down of the operating reserves, $172 million being the current year’s accounting plug figure. You know, to ensure that the budget is balanced, per regulation.

By way of example, how does the city “prove” it is spending the incremental $120 million over this and the next two years to specifically address homelessness, emergency shelters and the like? This year isn’t too much of a challenge. Take the existing budget amount and add say $40 million. What about next year? Will the province require the city to use the 2024 budget allocation for homelessness as a base and add $40 million. What if the 2024 base amount is inadequate? Which is what many a critic pointed out during the draft budget review. Will the city be permitted to just say it has increased the amount they intended to spend by $40 million, or do they have to prove it? And if they offer a proof, will anyone at the provincial level review it?

At issue is whether anyone at the province or the city will give the use of the incremental funds much more than a shrug? History tells us that budget-setting is not a serious process. It just looks that way .. at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. After all, Ottawa is well into the next decade of budget leger du main, without a peep from its sole shareholder.

Why should anyone expect a change in behaviour?

Ron Benn, a finance executive, has been a member of the Centrepointe Community Association for the better part of three decades.

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2 Responses

  1. Bruce says:

    Find the pea under the cup? A slight of hand and all is well?

  2. The Voter says:

    Infrastructure and transit. That’s the part of “housing and homelessness” that Mark Sutcliffe has said this year’s piece of the pie will be going towards.

    Maybe the logic is that the homeless need somewhere to get out of the elements and warm/cool/dry themselves so he’s going to put some of it towards buses, trains and stations. Then, to make their sleeping areas better, he’s going to put some money into bridges and other infrastructure to give them somewhere to sleep under.

    I don’t expect Doug Ford’s going to look too closely at the finer points. They both got their photo opp and surely that’s what counts.

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