Province freezes paramedic funding as city plans new hires
Ontario's share to remain static in 2019, city learned Tuesday
The City of Ottawa has learned it won't be getting any extra money from the province for its paramedic service this year, even though it's already committed to a spending boost of its own.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care confirmed Tuesday that it would give the city the same amount for paramedics and ambulances in 2019 that it did in 2018, Anthony Di Monte, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services, said Wednesday.
The province splits the cost of ambulance service 50/50 with municipalities.
Municipalities across Ontario received a 5.8 per cent increase in provincial funding in 2017, and a 5.3 per cent boost in 2018. This year, provincial funding levels will remain static.
City plans new hires, vehicles
The news comes two months after Ottawa city council approved its 2019 budget, which includes an extra $4.3 million for its paramedic service this year. The city plans to hire 14 paramedics and buy two vehicles, additions it said it needs to maintain the ambulance response times approved by council.
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Di Monte said the provincial funding freeze will have an effect on that plan.
"It would have an impact. It would no longer be 50/50. The municipality would be paying more now," he said, although he admitted the matter needs more study.
"We haven't had a chance to look at it. Quite candidly, we're in this emergency [flooding] operation right now. We'll have to look at what that means."
Di Monte has also been trying to figure out what a potential merger of paramedic services outlined in the PC budget would mean for the city.
City staff are preparing a wide-ranging analysis of what the Ontario budget means for the city's books in time for a July committee meeting.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) alerted municipalities Tuesday that yet "another budget shoe" had dropped.
AMO has been studying what the April 11 budget has meant for public health, child care, libraries and conservation authorities. Ontario mayors have been pushing back against what some see as "downloading by stealth."
Municipal governments received another budget impact today: ambulance grant will be frozen at 2018 levels – but they are based on 2017 funding allocation. Growth in service costs for 2019 will fall to municipal taxpayers. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#onpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/onmuni?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#onmuni</a>—@AMOPolicy
During question period at Queen's Park on Wednesday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath asked Premier Doug Ford to confirm the paramedic budget freeze, as well as job cuts at the Ontario Telemedicine Network.
The premier didn't respond directly, but Health Minister Christine Elliott said this:
"We are streamlining and modernizing the service by consolidating dispatch and service delivery into regional locations and adopting new models of care to build a sustainable and connected system," she said.