Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Police Budgets

There was a day when, through a procedural quirk that I, a simple Ward Councillor, was poised to freeze the police budget.

This was when I was Regional Councillor and had for a year ascended to the lofty heights of budget committee member. (There were only four on the committee and that oddity presented the procedural opportunity, as I recall.)

Long story short: I had , of course, over rated my procedural prowess and the police got their money as they always do.

I was reminded of this today upon reading a report in the Stratford Beacon-Herald that notes that the small southwestern town of St. Mary’s is considering other policing arrangements after the police budget (for the OPP in this case) is expected to escalate by 82%. Mayor Jamie Hahn calls it “outrageous and unreasonable.” Other communities - Oxford County and Sarnia have similar issues according to the story by Laura Cudworth.

But the real story here should be:


This has been the case for some time. For many reasons police budgets get measured by a different standard than other areas of the municipal budget.

Not to suggest there is a simple solution for municipal politicians. In fact, the escalating costs are probably beyond their control.

I drove like an undertaker for some time after my fifteen minutes of oppositional fame. To this day I bet there is no one who does the textbook perfect lane changes that I do.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Municipalities and Health Care

Battles to preserve health care are being fought in many small Ontario municipalities.

Residents and Councils are fighting the closing and potential closing of emergency rooms in their local hospitals.

Seaforth Community Hospital was reduced to a 12 hour operation early this year.

“Cutting ER services is a direct response to the financial pressures on the health care system,” says Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions OCHU/CUPE.

Hurley’s union represented 40 workers who lost their jobs at the Huron County hospital.

But this is about more than jobs. It’s about keeping our communities healthy.

In Petrolia the ER was “saved” in February after a huge public outcry and a threat by six doctors to resign if it was closed.

Meanwhile, in the nearby southwestern town of Wallaceburg the sparring is just beginning to protect the Sydenham District Hospital ER. Two hundred residents attended a first meeting. A rally in a supermarket parking lot planned by Save Our Sydenham (SOS) Committee will certainly draw a bigger crowd.

Fort Erie and Port Colborne are in similar predicaments. A resolution by Fort Erie Council calls for public election of all hospital boards and
legislative protection for rural hospitals More than fifty-eight Ontario communities have supported it according to Port Colborne’s website.

Many blame Local Health Integration Networks (LINH’s) for this development.

Queen’s Park “essentially established the mandate the LHINs are now carrying out. I believe that health care in rural Ontario is being systematically withdrawn. This is not acceptable and is a direct reversal of Premier Dalton McGuinty's own promise to us to protect the small rural hospital and their ability to serve..,” charged Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey.

All of us should be paying attention to how this plays out.