Mayor shares concerns over NWHU funding

Sam Odrowski

Municipalities are being forced to pay more for public health services as the province has changed its funding formula.
Prior to the change, townships shared the costs of public health with the province using a 25 percent municipal and 75 percent provincial split. Now municipalities must use a 30/70 cost share model and are required to split the costs of programs with the province that were previously 100 percent funded.
Mayor June Caul said she’s concerned about the increased cost for Fort Frances.
“What I see the Ontario government doing again is downloading more onto the municipalities who can’t afford that as it is,” she noted.
“Taxes are high enough for our public, never mind us having to tax people even higher because the government isn’t willing to continue funding public health as it has in the past.”
Mayor Caul said she doesn’t want to lose any public health jobs and would like to keep the local health unit in its current location.
Last year the province announced plans of centralizing health units from 35 to 10 in all of Ontairo, which would likely relocate Fort Frances’ health unit to Thunder Bay.
“The city of Thunder Bay does not have the same issues as the Rainy River District and our area First Nations do,” reasoned Mayor Caul, who said the district has unique public health needs.
“We need to keep our staffing at the level it is at our local health units so we can make sure that the programs and services they provide can continue to run for the betterment of our communities here.”
In the midst of global health crisis such as the coronavirus–which has infected more than 71,000 people globally and killed nearly 2,000–Mayor Caul said public health is critical for preventing infectious diseases and spreading education.
“Without them [health units] being available, situations like the coronavirus outbreak that’s happening right now wouldn’t get addressed as well,” she charged.
So far, eight people have tested positive for the coronavirus inside Canada out of 350 suspected cases. There are also 15 more infected Canadians currently on a Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, who are set to return to Canada tomorrow (Thursday), for quarantine.
Meanwhile, the town is being forced to pay $30,698 more for its levy to the Northwestern Health Unit this year, which accounts for a sizeable portion of the town’s $205,961 in uncontrollable expenses on their 2020 preliminary budget.
Other large uncontrollable expenses include:
• OPP contract price increase – $76,670
• Ontario Cannabis Legalization Fund – $14,693
• Destinations Northern Ontario TIC Grant – 15,000
• Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund reduction – $68,900
Uncontrollable expenses account for 41.7 percent of the town’s preliminary operating budget deficit, which sits at $493,541.
Mayor Caul said as costs continue to be passed down to municipalities from the province, council is forced to either raise taxes or reduce services–neither of which being ideal for the town.
“The municipalities always look like the bad guys who are trying to raise the taxes or cut services, and the bottom line is it’s because the government isn’t giving provincial funding anymore,” she stressed.
“I trust that the government will take a closer look at what’s going on and make sure they consider us here in the northwest again and how important our own local health units are for our economy and health.”