The Board of Health is set to discuss the impact of recently announced provincial cuts to public health programing at a meeting in two weeks’ time but Chair Joe Cressy says that he remains unwilling to accept any reduction in funding which will “negatively affect the health of Torontonians.”

Cressy made the comment in an open letter that he sent to members of the Board of Health in the wake of Premier Doug Ford’s announcement that the province will download up to 30 per cent of the cost of public health programming to municipalities as of Jan. 1.

Back in April, Ford’s imposed similar cuts that would have actually downloaded up to 50-per cent of the cost of Public Health programming onto the City of Toronto but he backed away from them amid intense public criticism.

“As members of the Board of Health we know well that cutting public health is both harmful and fiscally irresponsible,” Cressy wrote in his open letter. “An indisputable body of evidence has demonstrated that public health programs – vaccinations, disease prevention, student breakfast programs, water quality testing and more – save lives today and in the future.”

Cressy said that the while province has “not shared full details of the new cuts publicly,” the expectation is that the City of Toronto will now be on the hook for 30 per cent of all programming administered by Toronto Public Health, including initiatives that were previously full funded by the province like disease control.

He said that he plans to use the Sept. 3 meeting of the Board of Health to table a motion calling on the province to once again reverse the cuts.

“As part of the 2020 budget process we will, as always, be reviewing opportunities for cost savings but under no circumstances am I prepared, as chair of the board of health, to accept cuts that negatively affect the health of Torontonians,” he said. .

Cost increases will be capped in first year

Staff had previously estimated that the cuts announced and then put aside by Ford in April would have left Toronto Public Health with a $1 billion dollar hole in its budget over the next decade. The total financial impact of these cuts, however, remains unclear.

In a statement provided to CP24 on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Minister of Health Christine Elliott said that the new funding formula was only arrived upon after consultations with affected parties, including representatives from the City of Toronto and the Association of Local Public Health Agencies

The spokesperson said that there will also be a 10 per cent cap on increases in public health costs to municipalities in the first year if the new funding formula, meaning the City of Toronto will pay no more than $4.3 million more in 2020.

“So long as the City of Toronto meets its obligations, there should be no reduction in funding for public health services and programs,” Travis Kann said.

The previous funding formula required stipulated that the city contributed 25 per cent of Toronto Public Health’s budget with the province contributing 75 per cent. Some programs, however, were fully funded by the province.

In a statement issued Monday, Mayor John Tory called the cuts an “improvement on previously announced proposals,” which were made retroactively. He also said that he appreciated the government’s efforts to listen to municipalities, including Toronto, and understand the impacts that changes to established funding formulas will have on the services we deliver for our residents.”

“As I have said before, I recognize and appreciate the challenges the Government of Ontario faces in getting its deficit under control, and I support its intention to do so. However, this must be done in a prudent, collaborative manner that does not impact the services that people in Toronto rely on each and every day,” he said.