Opposition to Ontario Government's Anti-Social Offensive

Proper Investments Required So Workers Can Provide Citizens with the Services They Need

Contingent of paramedics participates in Health Care Day of Action, Queen's Park, April 30, 2019.

Workers' Forum: On May 17 the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) issued a press release entitled "In the face of dire funding cuts, Ontario paramedics ask: 'Will there be an ambulance available when you need one?'" Can you tell us more about this?

Jason Fraser: The funding model for paramedic services in Ontario is roughly a 50-50 split. The province contributes 50 per cent and the municipalities contribute 50 per cent. That is each year. Typically, the provincial government increases the amount it transfers by about 5 per cent each year. What they have done is they have frozen the amount of money that they are transferring at 2017-2018 rates. Municipalities have already passed their budgets for 2019. They were expecting 50 per cent of whatever their budget was going to be this year to come from the provincial government but they are now getting less, they are actually getting what their budget was for the 2018 year. That is a significant shortfall for paramedic services across the province.

We don't really know what municipalities are going to do to offset those costs yet. Some municipalities committed to having new vehicles in service, to having more paramedics. Right now we do not know how they are going to make up that shortfall.

For example, in the Durham Region they have a $1.75 million shortfall. The question is how are they going to make up that shortfall. Had the provincial government not frozen the rates, the region of Durham would have got that $1.75 million from the government.

WF: In the communique, you are quoted as saying that ambulance services are already facing situations in which they cannot provide adequate services to Ontarians.

JF: Yes. Across the province, in several areas, we have what are called code zeroes, a situation where there is either limited resources or no ambulances available to respond to calls. That is already happening in certain communities across the province.

Will this funding shortfall result in some paramedics being laid off? We don't know yet. Is it going to further increase the lack of resources, especially in municipalities that were going to put a vehicle on the road and were relying on that funding from the province? Now they don't have the funding so they can't put that other vehicle on the road.

We know that call volume is increasing between 3.5 per cent and 5 per cent a year. The call volume is increasing because of many factors, one being the aging population. Also, in the city of Toronto, the provincial government cancelled the funding for safe injection sites which had really reduced the number of 911 calls. With safe injection sites closing because they do not have the funding, that means more people are calling 911.

We are still looking at what is going to be the impact of this.

Further, with paramedic services and communication centres as well, the provincial government is looking at restructuring everything. We currently have 52 land ambulance services that are operated by municipalities and the province is looking at restructuring them, at reducing their number. We have not been consulted on that yet. We had a little technical briefing on it and we have been promised a seat at the table but we do not have any dates for that yet. It is definitely not going to be 52 services. It might go down to 10 services. Each municipality would be lumped in within a larger geographical area. We would have to cover a larger area but we do not have enough resources to cover our own areas so that is just going to make matters worse again. This does not bode well at all.

We would like to see the provincial funding reinstated so that the services get the appropriate amount of money they need to operate their service. As far as the restructuring goes, we think that the best model is the current model. They just need to properly invest in our services so that we can provide them to the citizens of Ontario.

(Photos: WF, OFL)

This article was published in

Number 21 - June 6, 2019

Article Link:
Opposition to Ontario Government's Anti-Social Offensive: Proper Investments Required So Workers Can Provide Citizens with the Services They Need >


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