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Hamilton politicians ask Ontario to postpone funding cuts, health unit restructuring

The request, made during a meeting on Wednesday evening, follows Premier Doug Ford's call for municipalities to cut their budgets in-year by four per cent.
The request, made during a meeting on Wednesday evening, follows Premier Doug Ford's call for municipalities to cut their budgets in-year by four per cent. Nick Westoll

The verbal tug of war continues between the city and the provincial government.

Hamilton City Council has voted to ask the province to delay any funding cuts or restructuring of health units until at least 2020, in order to allow for public consultation.

READ MORE: City of Toronto launches petition demanding Ford government reverse course on cuts

The request, made during a meeting on Wednesday evening, follows Premier Doug Ford’s call for municipalities to cut their budgets in-year by four per cent.

WATCH: (April 16) Ontario government wants to consolidate public health units into regional boards of health

Ontario government wants to consolidate public health units into regional boards of health
Ontario government wants to consolidate public health units into regional boards of health

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says that would result in tax hikes and service cuts and shows a lack of consideration for municipal budgets, noting that “we struggle over a million dollars every year, at the end of budget time, to try and get to a number that keeps us at or below inflation.”

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READ MORE: New estimate says provincial changes chop Hamilton’s funding by $8.8 million

Eisenberger adds that we’re seeing a repeat of what happened in the days of Mike Harris, when his Progressive Conservative government “didn’t want to increase taxes so they forced municipalities to increase their taxes and reduce their services.”

The premier, speaking with CHML’s Scott Thompson on Wednesday afternoon, said his request shouldn’t surprise anyone since he ran on a pledge to “reduce the size and cost of government.”

Ford also accuses Eisenberger of wanting everything his way, saying “I didn’t hear the mayor arguing when he was in my office and he wanted to spend $1.2 billion on an LRT which we approved in Hamilton.”

City council is also voicing fears with a plan by the provincial government to reduce the number of local public health units across Ontario from 35 to 10.

READ MORE: Hamilton’s public health unit expected to disappear with province’s plan to amalgamate regional boards

Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jackson describes the idea as “ridiculous” and is among those concerned that it will make it harder to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, while also protecting the safety of things like food and water.

“This is the beginning of a battle,” Jackson concludes.

Hamilton’s public health unit would merge with counterparts in Niagara, Brant and Haldimand-Norfolk under the planned amalgamation.

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