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Budget cuts are health-care cuts, professionals warn - Toronto Star

January 08, 2012
Robyn Doolittle
Toronto Star

A group of Toronto health professionals is warning that proposed cuts to a variety of city programs are actually health-care cuts in disguise.

Axing or reducing funding to HIV and drug prevention programs, recreation centres, community health centres, shelter services and Wheel-Trans for some dialysis patients is going to create significant health consequences, said Russ Ford, the executive director of LAMP Community Health Centre in South Etobicoke.

“And we’re going to pay for it down the line, both physically and financially,” said Ford, whose centre is at risk of losing some funding from the city.

As of Friday, Ford (no relation to Mayor Rob Ford) had collected 280 signatures, half from local physicians, demanding the city back off from many of the proposed service cuts.

For Dr. Roy Male, who has worked with a community centre in Regent Park for eight years, this is an issue of health equity.

“I counsel my patients to exercise. You and I probably have a membership at a gym. End of story. My patients use community recreation centres, and these (proposed) fee increases mean, in a large number of cases, people are going to stop using them,” he said.

As of this week, the exhaustive 2012 budget process has finally entered the home stretch, with one more stop at the budget and executive committees this week and then off to council for the last time later this month.

When the discussions began more than a year ago, the Ford administration presented the “2012 budget” as Toronto’s moment of financial reckoning — judgment day for a spend-happy city.

One year later, after a massive public backlash that heard upwards of 1,000 deputations, the forecast is dreary, but nothing to head to the basement over. You are forgiven if you can’t quite remember what’s still on the chopping block. So below is your cheat sheet to all things budget in 2012.


Plans to trim 10 per cent from Toronto’s student nutrition program unofficially died at a December committee meeting when dozens of angry advocates trumpeted the educational benefits of learning on a full stomach. Thursday, mayor Ford announced he would not be pursuing cuts in this area.

It’s unlikely libraries will survive the 2012 budget completely unscathed, but proposed cuts to city branches sparked the first batch of public uproar. While some in Mayor Ford’s inner circle would like to see some underutilized branches closed, no one is willing to spend political capital fighting Margaret Atwood. There will probably be some reductions to hours and collections spending.

Daycare is another area politicians are not keen to take on. Giorgio Mammoliti is heading up the mayor’s task force on daycares and has demanded the province step up in this area. Especially given the unexpectedly large year-end surplus — as of last week, staff put the number at $154 million — and a reserve fund for this area, daycare cuts are highly unlikely.

Rob Ford ran on a campaign of back-to-basics government. He said smooth, clean roads and clean neighbourhoods are a priority for Torontonians. For this reason, proposals to reduce leaf collection and sidewalk snow plowing may not go far.


The Toronto Environment Office is facing a 17 per cent cut, largely by removing six staff positions dedicated to helping Torontonians live more efficiently and develop a climate change strategy. The city’s tree canopy program, which helps air quality, could also be cut.

“Cuts to TTC services also have a huge impact on the environment. It’s extraordinarily upsetting. I’m scratching my head where this radical conservative agenda has come from. This is not what Torontonians have been asking for,” said Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

Recreation is still in considerable danger heading into the 2012 budget debate. Despite an announcement last week that the mayor has directed staff to protect city-run programs at 12 community centres housed in schools, arena hours could still be slashed and some swimming and wading pools could be closed. For health professionals, the most troublesome proposal is planned hikes to user fees, especially in low-income neighbourhoods.

Shortly after Rob Ford came to office, his transition team began investigating the Community Partnership and Investment Program, which among other things, doles out millions in arts grants as well as AIDS and drug prevention funding.

If plans stay the course, Toronto transit riders are going to have a rocky 2012. At the same time the TTC has hiked fares 10 cents, raising $30 million in additional revenue, the commission is being forced to slash service on more than 60 bus and streetcar routes and cancel an order for 108 badly needed new buses.

As originally published here: http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1112318--budget-cuts-are-health-care-cuts-professionals-warn?bn=1

2012-01-08 Budget cuts are health-care cuts, professionals warn (Toronto Star).pdf1.02 MB