Board of Health Chair, Coun. Joe Cressy and Toronto’s medical officer of Health are sounding the alarm about the Ontario government’s proposed $1-billion cut to public health.
“The programs Toronto Public Health runs are in every single corner of our city, they impact the lives of every single Torontonian in our city,” Cressy told the media at a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday.
“And I say this, without one ounce of exaggeration, because of these cuts, Torontonians will die.”
The cuts, which begin retroactively starting April 1 and span over the next decade, could affect programs such as student nutrition, vaccinations, daycare inspections, food safety, outbreaks and dental services.
Cressy said that the city wasn’t warned the cuts were coming and because they are retroactive, Toronto Public Health now sees itself in an unexpected deficit.
“We don’t know what programs we’ll have to cut,” Cressy explained.
He said he’s calling on the province to reverse its decision.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, echoed the warning over the possible impact these cuts could have to people across the city.
“We at Toronto Public Health take our roles extremely seriously,” she said.
“Our primary concern is to improve the health status of our population, to reduce disparities amongst those who reside in our city.”
De Villa added that “the paradox of prevention is that when it works, it looks like nothing has happened.”
Cressy said he has had daily meetings with Mayor John Tory “who has been unwavering in his support for the continued operation of Toronto Public Health.” He also agrees with the mayor that because the provincial cuts are deeper to Toronto than anywhere else across the province, this seems like a targeted attack on the city.
But the province doesn’t see it that way. In fact, it’s a bit of a he-said-she-said.
Provincial Minister of Health Christine Elliott took to Twitter shortly before the press conference to have her say on the claims made by the city, starting with the amount of the total cut to funding.
“Let me be clear: the financial impact of these updates will amount to one-third of a percentage point of the City of Toronto’s annual budget — hardly a billion dollars,” she tweeted.
Elliot also addressed the criticism that the province hadn’t informed the city of the cuts ahead of time.
“We first communicated these changes to the City of Toronto as early as last Monday, April 15,” she tweeted
“I’ll admit I was surprised to read some seriously misleading statements so late the following Thursday ahead of a long weekend. I don’t know why they waited so long.”
“The Health Protection and Promotion Act is abundantly clear that municipalities have always been responsible for funding public health,” she continued.
“Regardless, we will continue to do our part and I have every expectation that Toronto Public Health will continue to be properly funded.”
Elliott then put the onus onto the city to do their part to ensure the well being of those in need.
“Our government will continue to meet our financial commitments as we slowly shift the cost-sharing funding model over the next three years,” she tweeted.
“So long as the City of Toronto does the same, there will be no impact to local programs or on local patients.