Premier Doug Ford says his government will help pay for cities and school boards to conduct new audits of their spending, in a bid to cut their overall spending by four per cent.

Ford says the province will offer municipalities $7.35 million to pay for audits as they continue to decry cuts to public health units, subsidized childcare and tourism promotion.

Ford spoke to the chambers of commerce from Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa on Tuesday afternoon, saying he cannot balance the budget and eliminate a deficit that stands at $11.7 billion without touching transfers to cities and other parts of the broader public sector.

“We don’t want to bring down the heavy hammer, but 92 per cent of our spending comes through municipalities and other agencies,” Ford said.

Cities large and small are upset the Premier has announced numerous cuts to various transfer payments made to Ontario municipalities.

“We need the large urban municipalities and the schoolboards, to do what we did and find four per cent efficiencies,” Ford said.

The City of Toronto says it is facing a $178 million budget shortfall in 2019 as a result of the cuts, impacting subsidized daycare spaces, public health funding, tourism promotion and infrastructure spending.

Toronto’s public health unit says the cuts to its services amount to $1 billion over the next decade, while the PCs insist public health units have grown to perform services outside their core mandate and need to be trimmed.

Toronto Mayor John Tory responded to their claims saying that even if he agreed to every change ever recommended by any recent audit the city has undergone, the provincial cutbacks would far exceed the money those changes would save.

He also said any suggestion that Toronto undergo another detailed audit, similar to one performed in 2014 to find new savings, would be viewed as a “stunt.”

“If all the province says they’re going to do is give us some money for a line by line audit, which we already do, without any willingness to discuss the way we will save money or when these cuts will take effect, I would view it more as a public relations stunt.”

Ford replied that there are plenty of ways Tory can find savings.

“The Auditor General offered 227 recommendations to the city and they didn’t take any of them. We’re asking them to find one cent on every single dollar – if they decide to cut childcare spaces that’s going to be on their back.”

Other municipalities are upset that the province’s 35 public health units are being merged into 10, with provincial funding for them to be cut by $200 million by 2021.

At the City of Toronto, a previous effort to find savings through a series of outside audits that concluded in 2016 cost $3.5 million.

That effort found that 88 per cent of the money the City of Toronto spends each year amounts to “mandatory” or “essential” services.

Tory reiterated on Tuesday afternoon that the city is already looking for efficiencies to plug the $178 million hole, but is certain cuts will still have to take place.

"It does us no good getting money for a line-by-line audit that we’re already doing, without consideration from the Province of the fact that these retroactive, mid-year cuts will seriously hurt residents and families," he said in a statement released after Ford's announcement.