Premier Doug Ford’s government recently announced it was putting plans on hold to merge many of Ontario’s public health units and paramedic services, but regional governments are planning for when—or if the province again decides to move forward with the plan.
United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) Chief Administrative Officer Stéphane Parisien told counties council on June 12 that the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus (EOWC), which is composed of county wardens from the eastern portion of the province, is planning to hire a consulting firm to find efficiencies in the existing municipally-operated paramedic services with the aim of reducing the possibility of the province amalgamating them in the future.
Parisien said that just because the cuts were reversed for this year, it does not mean the Ontario government will not try to make the changes again.
“We don’t want Prescott-Russell to become an extension of Ottawa’s paramedic service,” said Parisien.
“Absolutely not!,” exclaimed UCPR Warden Robert Kirby.
A form letter from Premier Ford to municipal leaders across Ontario that announced the reversal of public health, paramedic, and public childcare cuts was shared with UCPR council. In the letter, the Premier stated the government is providing $200 million in one-time finding to small and rural municipalities for service modernization that is intended to lead to future savings.
“Here’s some money because we’re cutting you next year,” was Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux’s response to the letter.
The suspension of the provincial cuts and the announcement of the one-time funding has made a significant difference on adjustments to the 2019 UCPR budget.
In May, Treasurer Julie Menard-Brault reported that up to $1.4 million in provincial funding to the counties could have been affected.
The provincial decision to maintain existing funding levels for this year, and to provide the additional funding has led to a balanced adjustment of $48,947,600.
The adjustment includes $277,000 in one-time funding from the province and other changes due to higher-than-expected revenues in some areas with lower-than expected expenses in other categories.