Watson brings up concerns with Ford about downloading, pot shop locations
Mayor Jim Watson brought up downloading, pot shop locations and the concerns of francophones during a meeting Monday with Premier Doug Ford in Toronto.According to the mayor’s spokeswoman, Livia Belcea, Watson “asked the premier to avoid downloading onto municipalities when tabling the 2019 provincial budget.”The spectre of downloading provincial programs to municipalities would especially touch Watson since he was the Ontario municipal affairs minister who signed the 2008 upload agreement with municipalities on behalf of a Liberal provincial government.Ottawa city council on Wednesday will begin its own 2019 municipal budget process and one of the underlying concerns is the potential impact of the Progressive Conservatives’ first provincial budget. The PC government has been on the hunt for provincial budget savings and city hall is waiting to see if any cuts will affect funding for municipal programs. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario on Monday warned of a growing provincial deficit in its economic outlook report.Meanwhile, Ottawa council is poised to direct city departments to keep spending increases at or below three per cent in 2019.Belcea said Watson also pressed Ford to allow municipalities to control the locations of cannabis retail stores and their proximity to schools and community centres. Under provincial rules, municipalities can’t use planning restrictions to dictate where provincially licensed pot shops can be located.Council on Thursday will decide whether pot shops can open in Ottawa. Ontario municipalities must tell the provincial government by Jan. 22 if they are opting out of having pot shops. The majority of council is leaning toward allowing the shops, but even those who are in favour of welcoming private cannabis storefronts are worried that the city has no say in where the businesses can be located.Watson shared with Ford the concerns of the region’s francophone community, although it would have been hard for the premier to miss the coverage of francophone demonstrations in several municipalities, including a large one at Ottawa City Hall last Saturday. People are upset that the PC government is cutting the office of the French-language services commissioner and cancelling plans for a French-language university. (In the wake of the controversy, Ford has announced a new Ministry of Francophone Affairs).Other topics during their meeting at Queen’s Park included funding to combat guns and gangs, surplus provincial land being used for affordable housing and additional help for Ottawa residents dealing with the aftermath of the September’s tornadoes. Watson also updated Ford on the Confederation Line LRT project.
Mayor Jim Watson, right, drew attention to issues with Ontario Premier Doug Ford in Toronto on Monday,
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