Cuts to Toronto Public Health put every program 'at risk,' Crawford warns
Published Saturday, April 27, 2019 11:46AM EDT Last Updated Saturday, April 27, 2019 1:56PM EDT
Budget Chief Gary Crawford speaks with CP24 during a community clean up event in Oakridge Park on Saturday.
The province’s decision to retroactively reduce funding to public health agencies will put virtually every program provided by or funded by Toronto Public Health “at risk,” Budget Chief Gary Crawford warns.
Crawford made the comment in a statement that was first sent out on Friday night.
He said that by reducing the percentage of funding that it commits to some municipal public health programs retroactive to April 1, the province is leaving the city with the difficult choice of either reopening a budget that was passed in March and making cuts or letting vital Toronto Public Health programs go unfunded.
“I've led the budget process for the last five years to ensure we were delivering value for money at city hall and going line-by-line every year to glean savings and keep taxes low,” he wrote. “From his time at city hall, the premier knows that this is a long process over many months, and that we simply cannot make these adjustments mid-year, on the fly. If we did apply these public health cuts to other areas of our budget, these cuts would impact not only public health, but potentially other vital services to Torontonians, such as recreation programs, library hours, grass cutting, road re-paving and pedestrian safety initiatives, to name a few.”
City staff have said that the provincial cuts will take $64 million from Toronto Public Health’s budget in 2019 and a combined $1 billion over the next decade.
While officials with Premier Doug Ford’s government have taken issue with that math, Crawford told CP24 on Saturday that there will regardless be “tens of millions that we are going to have to look at trying to replace.”
“The reality is there will be some services that will have to be cut if we have to look at this retroactively,” he said during a community cleanup event in Oakridge Park. “There is no pocket of money sitting around anywhere for us to be able to make up the difference and if we are forced to make the difference and open up the budget to look for savings that concerns me.”
Ford says city ‘needs to get their financial house in order’
The provincial government previously funded upwards of 75 per cent of Toronto Public Health’s budget but will now only cover 50 per cent, leaving the city to make up the difference.
The city has asked the province to reconsider their decision, particularly the retroactive nature of it, but has so far been met with indifference.
On Saturday, Premier Doug Ford told CP24 that the change in funding ratios amounts to a fragment of the city’s overall budget.
“It is one third of one per cent (of the city budget) and if the city can’t find one third of one percent of their budget they have issues. They need to get their financial house in order,” he said while attending a community cleanup event along the Berry Creek in Etobicoke. “You are talking to a guy who spent four years down there (at city hall). I know all the rhetoric and it is just not accurate (that services will be cut). It is one third of one per cent of their budget and if the city can’t find one third of one per cent than maybe they need to get a new bookkeeper.”
Toronto Public Health provides a long list of programming, including disease prevention, immunization monitoring and school nutrition.