Province has 'a good budget,' but Hamilton mayor wants funds for affordable housing
Millions in Ontario’s 2018 budget will go towards city initiatives
Hamilton's mayor Fred Eisenberger is happy to see the big health-care spends in the Ontario budget 2018, but said he wants more housing support for people who need it.
"I would say more of a focus on affordable housing would have been a positive step for all cities," Eisenberger said.
It's "one of the bigger issues we're struggling with," he added, saying the city has been "cobbling together resources" to make more room.
Despite the lack of major funding for affordable housing, Eisenberger said the 2018 provincial budget was "a good budget for cities," particularly in how it addresses child care, seniors' care, mental health services and reducing wait times in hospitals.
Some of the province's commitments include:
- $2.2 million over three years to bring free licensed daycare for preschool-aged children.
- $750 yearly benefit for people 75 and over who still live at home.
- $575 million to cover prescription drug costs for people 65 and over.
Health care criticisms despite big spends
Eisenberger is not the only one with criticisms for the budget.
The province said it will commit $300 million over three years to hire a registered nurse in every long-term care facility site in Ontario and provide an average of four hours of personal daily care for each resident by 2022.
CLAC, a national union that represents over 5,000 members working in Ontario's healthcare system, issued a statement saying the 2022 deadline is "too late."
There's "no indication as to how they're going to fund that, and what targets they're going to set," Ian DeWaard, provincial director of CLAC, told CBC News.
Long-term health care workers are currently experiencing a "high degree of burnout" — from lots of time spent on paperwork to caring for residents with increasingly difficult health challenges — "all those things are creating a real crisis on the frontlines," said DeWaard.
Families could also see up to 80 per cent reimbursed for dental care with a yearly maximum of $400 for one person, $600 for a couple and $50 for each child in a family, said the province.
Jonathon Herriot, a resident physician and a member of the steering committee on Healthcare Providers Against Poverty Ontario, said he would have liked to see 100 per cent dental coverage.
There are many people who visit the ER because of dental pain, Herriot said, and they're often people who can't afford dentists.
"We're stuck sort of having to manage the pain," he added.
However, even though the budget item is a positive step toward change, "I'm not sure how long [that money] would last if you go to the dental office."
Direct investments in Hamilton
Aside from the funds dedicated to big items across the province, other Hamilton organizations are receiving funds directly.
Eisenberger pointed to a partnership with a number of health care organizations in the region, such as St. Joseph's Health System Hamilton and the Niagara Health System, to create a Centre of Excellence in Health Care Artificial Intelligence with a $10 million commitment from the province.
St. Joseph's Health System Hamilton president Kevin Smith said the centre will help take theoretical AI research and translate it "into practical and clinical environments."
The Ancaster Arts Centre will also see $3 million to help toward construction.
And for users of GO service, there are plans for a "new weekday GO train service between the future Confederation GO station in Stoney Creek, now being constructed and the Niagara Region," Eisenberger said in a statement.