Public health programs are essential for the well-being of everyone and the need is ever-growing. In this deputation to the Board of Health, Local 79 President Tim Maguire says he wants a solid commitment from the City not to cut-back on any of the services that are needed. Public health is not a ‘frill’; it’s an investment in people – families and communities.
Dear Councillor Mihevc and Members of the Board of Health:
RE: HL8.10 – Toronto Public Health 2016 Operating Budget Request
On behalf of CUPE Local 79 and our members who work at Toronto Public Health I would like to comment on the 2016 Operating Budget Request.
Public Health is not being given the human resources or the funding to carry out everything it needs to do for the citizens of Toronto – including newcomers. The health budget is cost shared with the province on a 75% / 25% split, but the City’s 25% does not cover the costs of what needs to be done.
The new and enhanced requests in the budget, like the Student Nutrition Program, are a welcome development but the City must provide the resources to do the job. Public health programs are essential for the well-being of everyone. The need is ever-growing. CUPE Local 79 would like to see a solid commitment from the City not to cut-back on any of the services that are needed. Social infrastructure, like public health, is not a ‘frill’; it’s an investment in people – families and communities.
The Operating Budget Request states:
“As part of the 2016 budget process, the City Manager issued the following directions for development of the 2016 Operating Budget to all City Divisions, Agencies, Boards and Commissions (ABCs):
- 2016 Operating Budget request is 1% below the 2015 Approved Net Operating Budget resulting in a reduction of 1% reduction from the 2015 net budget.”
Does this mean that Toronto Public Health will be facing a 3% reduction next year when you add a further 2% cut to meet Mayor Tory’s vision for the 2016 City budget?
Gapping remains a significant problem at Public Health. The 2016 Operating Budget Request is seeking to reduce gapping from 5.8% to 4.8%. At 4.8% the gapping target is still too high. The budget request states “TPH implemented hiring strategies and improvements in the hiring process which reduced the time to fill vacancies. In 2015 TPH struggled to achieve its gapping target. TPH is requesting to reduce the gapping target ratio from 5.8% to 4.8% to maintain appropriate staffing to meet approved service levels.” Although the Board of Health is moving in the right direction to reduce gapping in the Division, though not far enough in that direction, the gapping levels of 4.8% leaves too many positions vacant. Services suffer when the gapping level is so high – after years of accumulative cuts.
Clearly, public health is struggling with all these cuts and demands for further ‘efficiencies’. This fiscal environment is not economically sustainable for such a vital Division.
Since the 2015 Board of Health budget was approved by Council, the City has offered its support and long-term commitment for two major priorities:
- TO Prosperity: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy
- Refugee Resettlement Program
Public Health is an essential Division in the fight against poverty and the successful resettlement of refugees. Housing, health care, children’s services, and social services must have the resources and front-line staff they need to welcome, help and support the incoming refugees. Especially considering that some of the most vulnerable refugees are being prioritized for settlement next year as part of the Federal government’s plan to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees – some of whom will relocate to Toronto.
At the Community Development & Recreation Committee meeting last week, we learned about the City of Toronto Refugee Resettlement Program and its impact on Toronto. The program “aims to mobilize the existing supports, while facilitating enhancements where needed”. How is the City going to provide these supports and enhancements when it is proposing to cut services, once again, in 2016?
The City should look long and hard at how many vulnerable people are at risk if the proper supports are not in place. Already in place are policies on Poverty Reduction, Newcomers and Undocumented Workers – now the City must follow through.
Public Health services will be swamped in the coming months and years – whether it be immunization for children, health examinations, oral health, and supports for frail seniors – the list goes on.
If done properly the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Refugee Resettlement will be game-changers for the City and services. The City will need an inflow of a lot more money to provide for all its citizens and their needs and any discussion about cutting the budget by a further 2% in 2016 should be scrapped.