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Ford government rejects calls from big city mayors to delay public health cuts

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Premier Doug Ford’s government says it’s sticking to its plan to download millions in costs to municipalities as the province tries to whittle down its deficit.
On Tuesday, 28 big city mayors from across Ontario called on the government to delay cuts to public health agencies that will see municipalities pick up a bigger share of the costs of public health programs.
“The Government of Ontario is engaging in downloading by stealth,” Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie charged on Tuesday.
Guthrie is the chair of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario.
Two weeks ago the province told cities it would be cutting their public health funding retroactive to April 1. The news came weeks after most cities had passed their budgets.
On Wednesday Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters there would be no change to the government’s plans — despite the concerns raised by Ontario municipalities.
Over the next three years the province will transition from funding 75 per cent of public health programs, run by municipal agencies, to 60 per cent. Toronto will be hit harder than all other municipalities, in its case the province will transition to a 50-50 cost share.
The province is also moving programs that it used to fully fund to a cost-shared model in Toronto and the other municipalities, they will be 50-50 and 60-40 respectively.
“This will not be delayed,” Elliott said. “This is going to be implemented.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters Thursday he will continue to lobby for the cuts to be reversed. He said the cuts will “radically” diminish the support that the city gets for public health programs.
The province’s public health agencies are responsible for an array of initiatives including infection prevention and control programs, vaccine programs, and funding school nutrition programs.
In the case of Toronto, the changes lead to a $33 million shortfall in the current budget year. Elliott said extra cash could be given if “extraordinary” circumstances arise but no money has been budgeted for that and she wouldn’t say what would qualify as a special circumstance.
Guthrie was not available to respond to the province today. Mayors from Kingston and Ottawa did not respond to requests for comment.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said instead of looking for savings, the province should be investing in the health budget.
“Eventually that reduces the pressure considerably on our hospitals and our doctors,” she said about putting more money into things like public health and pharmacare.
Horwath also argued that it’s not a “given” that voters expect the premier to balance the budget.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the premier could avoid making these types of cuts if he looked at pricier line items in the budget. For example, Schreiner pointed to the multi-billion dollar Fair Hydro Plan — brought in by the Liberals and kept in place by Ford — as deserving to be placed on the chopping block.
“He’s been doing maximum damage, nickel and diming the people of Ontario and our essential services, and he’s not touching the thing that drove the deficit out of control, that was the Liberal’s Fair Hydro Plan,”Schreiner said.

Premier Doug Ford’s government says it’s sticking to its plan to download millions in costs to municipalities as the province tries to whittle down its deficit.
On Tuesday, 28 big city mayors from across Ontario called on the government to delay cuts to public health agencies that will see municipalities pick up a bigger share of the costs of public health programs.
“The Government of Ontario is engaging in downloading by stealth,” Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie charged on Tuesday.
Guthrie is the chair of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario.
Two weeks ago the province told cities it would be cutting their public health funding retroactive to April 1. The news came weeks after most cities had passed their budgets.
On Wednesday Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters there would be no change to the government’s plans — despite the concerns raised by Ontario municipalities.
Over the next three years the province will transition from funding 75 per cent of public health programs, run by municipal agencies, to 60 per cent. Toronto will be hit harder than all other municipalities, in its case the province will transition to a 50-50 cost share.
The province is also moving programs that it used to fully fund to a cost-shared model in Toronto and the other municipalities, they will be 50-50 and 60-40 respectively.
“This will not be delayed,” Elliott said. “This is going to be implemented.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters Thursday he will continue to lobby for the cuts to be reversed. He said the cuts will “radically” diminish the support that the city gets for public health programs.
The province’s public health agencies are responsible for an array of initiatives including infection prevention and control programs, vaccine programs, and funding school nutrition programs.
In the case of Toronto, the changes lead to a $33 million shortfall in the current budget year. Elliott said extra cash could be given if “extraordinary” circumstances arise but no money has been budgeted for that and she wouldn’t say what would qualify as a special circumstance.
Guthrie was not available to respond to the province today. Mayors from Kingston and Ottawa did not respond to requests for comment.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said instead of looking for savings, the province should be investing in the health budget.
“Eventually that reduces the pressure considerably on our hospitals and our doctors,” she said about putting more money into things like public health and pharmacare.
Horwath also argued that it’s not a “given” that voters expect the premier to balance the budget.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the premier could avoid making these types of cuts if he looked at pricier line items in the budget. For example, Schreiner pointed to the multi-billion dollar Fair Hydro Plan — brought in by the Liberals and kept in place by Ford — as deserving to be placed on the chopping block.
“He’s been doing maximum damage, nickel and diming the people of Ontario and our essential services, and he’s not touching the thing that drove the deficit out of control, that was the Liberal’s Fair Hydro Plan,”Schreiner said.

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