Ontario municipalities unite in opposition to public health cuts
2019-05-13 from ipolitics.ca
TORONTO—Ontario’s big city mayors were joined by some of their rural cousins Monday to amplify calls for a reversal of planned public health cuts.
The cuts, buried in Premier Doug Ford’s April budget, will see the province download funding responsibility for vaccinations, infection prevention and control and well-baby programs (among many others) on to the municipalities.
At the same time, the province is also whittling down the number of health boards in Ontario from 35 to 10 — but other than saying Toronto will have a stand-alone health agency, it hasn’t said what the boundaries of the new health agencies will be or who will run them.
All of this leaves municipalities unable to respond to the cuts they know are coming, according to municipal officials from York Region, Peterborough and Eastern Ontario who spoke at a press conference at Toronto City Hall.
“We don’t have any information to even begin to make decisions,” Kerri Davies, the vice-chair of the Peterborough Board of Health told reporters.
She, and the other officials at the press conference called for the cuts to be reversed and questioned the wisdom of amalgamating health boards, a move they said would lead to “taxation without representation” because the new boards will represent much bigger geographic areas with dozens of municipalities in each.
Health Minister Christine Elliott has repeatedly said that the cuts won’t affect programs and could instead be realized through efficiencies, but officials at the press conference rejected that suggestion.
“We would like to better understand how a 20 per cent reduction in public health cannot result in a loss of services,” Davies said. “We would like to see the plan. Especially challenging since municipal boards of health have already set their current budgets.”
Denis Doyle, the mayor of Frontenac Islands and chair of the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Board of Health, warned that the cuts will could lead to the next SARS or Walkerton crisis — something provincial officials have previously rejected.
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