The Ford Government’s newest health cuts & the fightback
Cathryn Hoy of the Ontario Nurses’ Association joins Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition speaking out about the cuts.
City of Peterborough is most recent municipality to pass our Municipal Council Resolution against the cuts
This week, the City of Peterborough joined Toronto, Lambton County, Kingsville, and others to pass a municipal council resolution from the Ontario Health Coalition calling on the Ford government to stop its cuts/plans to eliminate local public health, ambulance/paramedic, hospital and long-term care services. Thank you to the Peterborough Health Coalition! The resolution began its journey across Ontario in Lambton County where it was introduced by Mayor Mike Bradley. CTV’s coverage of the story is here. A video of the resolution passing Toronto City Council is here. Volunteers are working on moving the motion through Councils in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Joseph Island, Brampton, Caledon, Clarington, Cockburn Island, Cornwall, Durham, Hamilton, Kawartha Lakes, Kingston, Mississauga, Niagara, Oshawa, Peel, Pickering, Sarnia, Scugog, Thunder Bay, Township of Prince, Uxbridge and Whitby, among others.
Click here for background on the planned cuts.
Click here for full list and analysis of Ford government health care cuts.
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This week Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie followed Chatham’s earlier launch of the fightback campaign
On Monday at the Seniors’ Drop In Centre, we launched the Sault Ste. Marie campaign to culminate in an indoor “rally” filling the basketball arena at Algoma University (George Leach Centre). Local media coverage was excellent and the campaign is off to a great start! Next steps: official opening of the campaign office, release of a local report, door-to-door leafletting and events across the city and then hopefully a huge crowd out on Saturday November 30 at noon.
On Tuesday at noon we launched the Toronto campaign, building for a mass rally next Saturday November 9 at 11:30 a.m. at Nathan Phillips Square outside City Hall. About 30 students, health and municipal workers, nurses and others joined in the launch which was covered well on CP 24 and City TV as well as in Ming Pao (Chinese language newspaper).
Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam speaking with media at our Toronto launch this week.
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Ford Appoints “Facilitator” to Smooth Way for Cuts
The Ford government wants to stick to the plan for major cuts to and restructuring of Public Health, including the elimination of the majority of local Public Health Units, but wants to make it look softer, like they are listening.
The province has unilaterally — without mandate from Ontarians, without any supporting evidence, and without any consultation — planned to dramatically reduce its funding for public health services and offload it to municipalities that will either have to cut services or increase taxes as a result. Public Health provides vital disease prevention, public safety and health promotion functions. In the original iteration of the plan, the Ford government planned to cut almost a third (27%) of provincial funding for public health. Until now the province has funded 100 percent of some public health programs and 75 percent of others. It planned to drop that to 60% across the board and singled out the City of Toronto for a drop to 50%. Now, under its slightly modified revamp, it plans to reduce the provincial share to 70% of total public health costs, it says. The City of Toronto has calculated that this means a loss of $14 million per year to be cut from disease prevention, safe drinking water, restaurant inspections, vaccinations, school breakfast programs, toxic waste disposal and more. The province’s plan is also to eliminate the majority of local Public Health Units, closing 25 of 35 and merging them down to 10.
After a major fightback from municipalities (notably Toronto and Ottawa, among others) the Ford government reduced the amount that it is cutting from public health budgets and cancelled retroactive cuts (cuts to funding that was already spent), but still, significant cuts are being pushed through by a combination of strong-arming and wheedling. The provincial government has appointed a “facilitator” who is meeting with municipalities and others to smooth the way for the restructuring and cuts.
Regarding paramedic/ambulance services, the province has announced that it will consult before moving forward with plans to eliminate 49 of 59 local ambulance/paramedic services and 12 of 22 local dispatch units, merging them down to 10. It has improved funding for paramedic services, and perhaps hopes that this will mean that the services do not speak out about the restructuring. But the province still plans to go forward with the elimination for the majority of local paramedic services and the centralization of their governmance and dispatch. In Alberta, where they centralized ambulance dispatch, dozens of municipalities and fire chiefs openly called on the government to reverse the centralization after dispatch errors and much longer wait times threatened the safety of people, particularly in rural areas.
The province has said that it might move away from eliminating 25 local Public Health Units. Bottom line? They may try to close 10 or 15 Public Health Units instead of the full 25 they originally announced, but Ontarians will not be fooled into thinking that reducing a horrible thing to merely a really really terrible thing is somehow positive.
Our chance to re-open the question about the closure of the Public Health Units and local ambulance/paramedic services and to send a clear message to the Ford government is now. They plan to push forward with the cuts and restructuring in January. This is our opportunity to mount enough political pressure that, like with the municipal amalgamations, the green belt, the Toronto Police Commissioner, and somewhat with the autism cuts, the Ford government will be forced to back down. We can do it if we all take a stand together.
Regarding long-term care and hospitals, the cuts are continuing though they have been delayed. In this year’s budget both our local public hospitals and long-term care homes have received funding increases that do not even keep up with inflation. This means “real dollar” cuts to hospitals and long-term care. They cannot maintain even existing services with this level of funding. In addition, the Ford government revealed plans to cut two special funds for long-term care, which amounts to a cut of $34 million per year. This summer, after pressure from the Health Coalition, municipalities and long-term care homes, the provincial government announced that it would delay (not cancel) the cuts to those special funds until October. In September, they further delayed the cuts til next winter/spring. But they have not stopped them.
In response to the political pressure that we have helped to levy, the Ford government has kept open extra surge beds in hospitals and annualized the funding to alleviate overcrowding. It is not enough but it is a step in the right direction. They have delayed (but not cancelled) the long-term care cuts. They are responding slightly to public pressure. We can do more. When previous governments have tried to push cuts too far we not only stopped them but we got them to reverse course and rebuild services. If we all push together, we can stop the cuts and protect these vital services and even improve them!
The dates, times, and locations for our upcoming stadium events are as follows:
Chatham: Saturday November 2, 11 a.m. at John D. Bradley Convention Centre
Toronto: Saturday November 9, 11:30 a.m. at Nathan Phillips Square
Sault Ste. Marie: Saturday November 30, 12 p.m. at George Leach Centre, Algoma University
Ottawa: Saturday December 7, 11 a.m. at TD Place Arena, Lansdowne Park