Hamilton

Hamilton protests public health merger, but the province doesn't have to listen

City council wants the Doug Ford government to hit the brakes on its plan to merge Hamilton's public health unit with three others — but ultimately, there's not much the city can do about it.

With the Mike Harris government, says Coun. Chad Collins, there was little recourse

Chad Collins, left, says all Hamilton can do is "batten down the hatches" when it comes to Ford cuts. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

City council wants the Doug Ford government to hit the brakes on its plan to merge Hamilton's public health unit with three others — but ultimately, there's not much the city can do about it.

Council voted unanimously Wednesday to ask the province to take time to hear what cities and public health experts think. Mayor Fred Eisenberger will write a letter to the Minister of Health asking her to hold off on funding cuts and restructuring until at least 2020.

That letter will emphasize that public health needs to happen at the local level. The unit oversees restaurant inspections, disease prevention, overdose prevention and sexual transmitted infection monitoring, among other roles. The province plans to merge Hamilton's public health unit with Brant, Haldimand-Norfolk and Niagara. It's part of a plan to whittle 32 public health units down to 10.

Public health requires "on-the-ground intelligence," said Brad Clark, Ward 9 (upper Stoney Creek) councillor. Clark was an MPP in the Conservative Mike Harris and Ernie Eves governments, but opposed municipal amalgamation.

"We will lose (that) if they amalgamate," he said. 

Chad Collins of Ward 5 (Centennial) said there's not much the city can do about it anyway. The province doesn't have to listen, and there's "little recourse."

"We've seen this movie before," he said, referring to Harris. "It's a bad one." All the city can do is "batten down the hatches and wait it out."

"I think it will become a fact of life in Ontario, just as it was under Premier Harris."

Laura Ip, a Niagara regional councillor, says she plans to bring a similar motion to the next Niagara Region council meeting.

Ford offered $7.35 million this year to municipalities and school boards willing to undergo a third party audit to find four per cent in savings.

Eisenberger said Hamilton will work with the province under the condition that the province "stop the surprises."

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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