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Premier drops into Durham Region

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The province is offering municipalities and other government-funded entities assistance in finding fiscal efficiencies.

During an appearance in Ajax on Tuesday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford announced $7.35 million in funding through the province’s audit and accountability fund.

The money will be earmarked to help municipalities, school boards, and other organizations to hire what Ford called “independent auditors that can look at the books line-by-line.”

Ford said his government found savings of four cents on every dollar of spending in this year’s budget, and he believes this goal is achievable for large urban municipalities and school boards as well.

In his view, taxpayers are “tired of being gouged” by all levels of government, and called on Ontario’s partners to work with them to find fiscal efficiencies.

While such audits will not be mandatory, Ford said he is hopeful municipalities can be willing partners.

When asked if the funding level is sufficient, the Premier said his government was able to go “line-by-line” through the province’s finances for $500,000.

“We covered the entire province…there is more than enough money to find the efficiencies,” he said.

Speaking to a crowd of roughly 450 at a business luncheon co-hosted by the Oshawa and Whitby chambers of commerce and Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade, Ford celebrated Ontario’s recent gains in jobs, including 47,000 in April.

He said his government has built a better environment for business owners to hire, and claimed employers are having challenges getting enough workers to meet their needs.

“That’s the kind of problem you want to hear about,” Ford said, adding he believes the province is back on its way to “fiscal dominance.”

However, Ford blasted the spending habits of the previous government, stating the Liberals were “paying a mortgage with a provincial credit card,” and Ontario’s “fiscal future of this province is still much at risk” as a result.

Speaking on local issues, Ford said the PCs are committed to expanding GO rail service eastward through Durham Region.

Metrolinx recently announced it would not be moving forward with a plan announced by the Liberals in 2016.

Instead, they are currently looking at four options that could see the expansion take a route either north or south of Highway 401.

City and regional officials have stated their preference of the northerly route.

However, Ford said his government would take advice from both Metrolinx and the public, as well as weigh the potential costs, before making a final decision.

“We always listen to the people,” he said.

Regarding tolls on Highway 412 and the future Highway 418, the Premier said there are considerations to possibly remove the tolls, but did note Ontarians need to pay their share for transportation infrastructure.

However, Ford stressed he is not in favour of selling off any government-owned sections of Highway 407.

Ford brushed off questions about polls that suggest his party’s popularity is dropping.

“The only poll that counts is on election day,” he told reporters.