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Ontario Budget a Win for Mayor Mark Sutcliffe
It is no secret that the City of Ottawa can be an afterthought for the Ford government, but Budget 2023 aligns with Mayor Sutcliffe’s interests by continuing to get back to the basics.
Yesterday, the Ford Government tabled Budget 2023 with a promise to be prudent as the province prepares for a looming economic recession. The budget moves forward with long-term infrastructure investments, addresses labour shortages that are preventing more housing starts, and reduces taxes on Ottawa’s small businesses.
Mayor Mark Sutcliffe must be breathing a sigh of relief, however small.
While there is no bailout for the cash-strapped City of Ottawa, this budget could have been an austerity budget. Instead, it prioritizes the same issues Sutcliffe championed during the Mayoral election last fall: maintaining roads, building more homes, and fostering economic growth. To summarize it politically, this budget allows Sutcliffe to deliver on his mandate and continue to keep his promise to maintain the municipal annual tax increase at only 2.5%.
But make no mistake, the Ontario budget is likely to be met with criticism from Ottawa’s Liberal and NDP political stakeholders. For example, the Ford government ignored calls to provide greater stimulus spending for families and instead focused on balancing the budget by 2024-2025. However, the provincial government signalled that it is closely watching household income, specifically spending power, which the government says is declining at a rate not seen since the 1990s.
If the Ford government ultimately decides Ontario families need targeted support, again, Sutcliffe will benefit. The Mayor ran on a promise to make Ottawa a more affordable place to live. Whether that’s achieved through federal, provincial, or municipal policy, the voter won’t distinguish the source, and Sutcliffe will profit politically.
Either strategically or by coincidence, Sutcliffe has aligned his policy priorities with Ford. Both leaders are extremely pragmatic, rejecting traditional ideological approaches to governance that result in political turmoil and too much emphasis on policies that matter to a small but vocal group of voters.
If Sutcliffe can continue to strategically disagree with Ford on contentious issues important to left-leaning councillors while simultaneously aligning himself with Ford on key provincial budgetary policies, the Mayor will split the political uprights and easily be awarded a second mandate by Ottawa voters.
Jake Enwright is Syntax Strategic’s Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs. He leads the practice responsible for municipal government relations and was a member of Mark Sutcliffe’s campaign team.
March 24 | 2023