Changes to Toronto Public Health - Online Consultations by Ministry of Health

Public Health services are vital to the health of every single Torontonian and Ontarian. They save lives today, and tomorrow. Toronto Public Health does the critical work of monitoring water quality, conducting vaccination programs, regulating food safety, infectious disease control, and so much more.

This is why any proposed changes by the Provincial Government to the funding, delivery, or structure of public health units must be extensively consulted on. The Government of Ontario has launched an online survey to gather feedback with regards to changes to public health units. The survey can be accessed by clicking here

At the January Board of Health meeting, with respect to changes to public health in Ontario, the board reaffirmed and endorsed the following principles:

  1. Integration with local municipalities: Maintaining an integrated relationship with municipalities, including the current model for the majority of Board of Health members to come directly from municipalities and for Chairs to be elected by Boards;
  2. Core funding model: Maintaining 100 percent provincial funding to support key health protection functions and maintaining the 75 percent/25 percent cost-sharing funding formula for other public health functions; and
  3. Support for the health protection, health promotion, and health equity mandates.
  4. Requested the Chair to transmit the principles in Part 1 above to the Ministry of Health on behalf of the Board.
  5. Reiterated its request for the Ministry of Health to meet specifically with the Toronto Board of Health and Toronto Public Health as part of the consultations on the changes to public health in Ontario.

Last year, following the announcement by the Provincial Government that they would be introducing changes to public health across Ontario, the Toronto Board of Health requested that a consultation process be undertaken before any such changes be implemented. 

The Ministry of Health has now begun that process, and has said that the feedback collected will be taken into consideration before any changes are implemented. It is critical that members of the public and health professionals alike share their thoughts with the government. This can be done through an online survey that has been launched in conjunction with a discussion paper, which can be found here. You can also send an email to Premier Ford and the Minister of Health to show your support for these principles, and to let them know that cuts to our life-saving public health services are unacceptable.

In addition to changes to the structure and operations of public health units across Ontario, the government has moved ahead with funding cuts to Toronto Public Health. These cuts are short-sighted, harmful, and fiscally irresponsible. Make no mistake, these cuts will hurt people.

The cuts to public health represent $14 million fewer provincial dollars every year for vital public health programs Torontonians rely on. Programs like school vaccinations, disease prevention, student breakfast programs, water quality testing, food safety inspections, and more. They result in a $4 million budget shortfall in 2020 alone, despite reliance on one-time mitigation measures from the province. And, they mean a shortfall of at least $14 million every year in 2021 and beyond.

This round of cuts reduces provincial funding for all public health programs to 70%. Until this year, the Province of Ontario funded 100% of the costs of some public health programs and 75% of the costs of others. The cuts mean programs like diabetes prevention, enhanced food safety and swim-safe initiatives, infection prevention, infectious disease control and more, previously funded 100% by the Province, will now receive 30% less provincial money. This, in addition to a reduction across the board for all the public health services that keep our communities safe and healthy.

The evidence is clear – cutting public health is both harmful, and fiscally irresponsible. Research has shown that every $1 invested in public health saves the healthcare system $16 in the future. And, addressing a provincial deficit by downloading costs onto municipalities is hardly sound financial management. One need only look to social housing and transit, which the city has struggled to fund alone since costs were downloaded by the province in the 1990s, to see this clearly.

Last year when members of the public spoke out against proposed cuts to public health, we won in getting the government to reverse their immediate cuts. Now, we need to speak out again against the harmful and short-sighted cuts to our life-saving public health services. I encourage everyone to fill out the Ministry of Health’s survey, and to contact Premier Ford and Minister Elliott let them know that cuts to our life-saving public health services are unacceptable.

As the Chair of the Board of Health, under no circumstances am I prepared to accept cuts that negatively affect the health of Torontonians. I will continue to share updates as they become available.