(Queen’s Park) – Ontario’s Health and Long-Term Minister Eric Hoskins needs to meet with Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr to discuss Regional Council’s serious concerns about public health funding and the proposed restructuring of public health boards.
That was the message Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott took to the floor of the Ontario Legislature during Question Period on November 15th.
“Halton Regional Council is expressing serious concerns about the report of the Minister’s Expert Panel on Public Health, which is entitled Public Health within an Integrated Health System.” Mr. Arnott said in the House. “What’s more, they are speaking up about the fact that this Government continues to shortchange the Region of Halton for public health: to the tune of almost 10 million dollars a year.”
In response, the Minister said that he would be willing to look at the request from the Regional Chair, but he did not commit to a meeting any time soon.
“I know there is a request in from the Regional Chair of Halton, Mr. Speaker. I’m happy to have a look at that,” Eric Hoskins replied.
Mr. Arnott is hopeful the Minister will set aside time in the near future to meet with Halton Region’s leadership to hear Regional Council’s concerns and seek to find ways to address them.
“Our elected Municipal colleagues are amongst our most important partners. We need to work together. It’s in the public interest that we cooperate with our municipal partners,” Mr. Arnott added.
(Attached are Mr. Arnott’s remarks in the Ontario Legislature and the responses from the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, November 15th, 2017)
– 30 –
Ted Arnott, MPP
Official Report of Debates (Ontario Hansard) – Nov, 15, 2017
Mr. Ted Arnott: My question is for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Halton regional council is expressing serious concerns about the report of the Minister’s Expert Panel on Public Health, which is entitled Public Health Within an Integrated Health System. What’s more, they’re speaking up about the fact that this government continues to shortchange the region of Halton for public health to the tune of almost $10 million a year. The regional council, by way of resolution, has authorized regional chair Gary Carr to seek a meeting with the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. His original request was sent July 11, almost four months ago. When will the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care meet with the Halton regional chair?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I appreciate the question. Our 36 public health units across the province play such an essential role in ensuring that Ontarians stay safe and live and thrive in a safe environment. Their work is absolutely essential, which is part of the reason why, since coming into office, we’ve doubled our funding to public health. In fact, a couple of years ago we changed the funding formula, based on multi-year consultation with the sector—with the front-line public health workers and others—so that the funding formula was not a simple per capita formula as before but it actually reflected the socio-demographic economic conditions and the need expressed on public health for each of the various localities.
I know that there is a request in from the regional chair of Halton, Mr. Speaker. I’m happy to have a look at that, and I’m happy to address any further issues in the supplementary.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Ted Arnott: The minister said he’d be happy to look at the request, but he didn’t say that he would meet with the regional chair. I can’t believe that the Minister of Health would refuse to meet with the regional chair of Halton, which has been one of the fastest-growing areas in the province.
Our elected municipal colleagues are amongst our most important partners. We need to work together. It’s in the public interest that we co-operate with our municipal partners, and I hope the minister will do that. The recommendations of the expert panel on public health include re-drawing geographic boundaries of public health agencies to conform with LHIN boundaries. However, in some cases, this means that regional municipalities will be separated into more than one public health agency.
At the same time, municipalities will lose their voice on public health boards but will still be expected to substantially fund the public health programs through local property tax dollars. The region of Halton believes that accountability will go out the window. How will the minister ensure that the accountability of public health boards to municipalities is not compromised?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Several years ago, as we spent and invested that time and consultation on the funding formula coming out of the Patients First Act, we committed to having a similar process and consultation to look at the structure and governance of public health in this province, something which hasn’t been looked at for many, many years—I think probably since the download that the PCs did for public health. Obviously, we have uploaded a considerable amount of the download to municipalities that the PCs were responsible for.
The expert panel was asked to look at structure and governance. They consulted to do that. They made the report available over the summer. The day after I received the report, I think, I immediately met with AMO, the MOU table with the municipalities. We are now in a consultation process across the board, including with Halton and public health units and municipalities, to get their input on the report.