L&A Council brings County concerns to serving ministers at AMO Conference
At the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference, Lennox and Addington (L&A) County Council met with Ontario’s Minister of Health and Minister of Education.
The conference, held the week of August 14 to 17, 2022, in Ottawa, provided L&A County Council with an opportunity to raise concerns with the Honourable Steven Lecce, Minister of Education, regarding the imposition of Education Development Charges (EDCs) by local school boards. According to a release from L&A County, County Council has serious concerns about the rural inequities of EDCs, the use and implementation of EDCs in general, and the total lack of consultation about EDCs by school boards with municipalities. (Read more on these concerns and what EDCs mean from the Town of Greater Napanee here.)
Lennox and Addington County is very rural in nature, with students travelling in various different directions feeding into many different schools, which results in rural areas being subjected to multiple Education Development Charges for a variety of different schools that make up the patchwork of their school service area, the County stated.
Past Warden Marg Isbester explained to Minister Lecce, that “this stacking of EDCs would cause a substantial financial burden on rural areas of Lennox and Addington County that have students attending multiple different school areas.”
Isbester went on to ask the Minister to apply a “Rural Lens” to the issue of EDCs to ensure that reasonable travel distances and multiple school catchment areas are taken into consideration to prevent the stacking of EDCs in rural areas. According to the release, Minister Lecce committed to reviewing Education Development Charges with a rural lens to ensure that there are no unintended consequences for rural areas.
In their meeting with the Honourable Sylvia Jones, Minister of Health, County Council requested confirmation on whether or not her Ministry is proceeding with the regionalization of paramedic services. The Emergency Health Services Modernization Project, which called for this regionalization, was announced at the 2019 AMO Conference. According to the County, the Ministry hosted consultations and invited stakeholder feedback to the Discussion Paper: Emergency Health Services Modernization. Understandably, in early 2020, this initiative was placed on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the County said.
Past Warden Isbester explained to the Minister that many paramedic services, L&A County included, have delayed the implementation of service enhancements and key staffing decisions due to the uncertainty of the future of the service. Isbester went on to say, “We have not received any communication since early 2020 and our service enhancements remain on hold.”
According to the release, Minister Jones then confirmed that regionalization of paramedic services is not on her radar for the foreseeable future.
County Council also asked the Minister to recognize that Offload Delays are a risk to public safety, and requested that her Ministry dedicate resources to effectively address this issue. According to the release, ambulance offload delays occur when paramedics must wait in an emergency department for a patient to be transferred to the care of the hospital. These delays are tying up paramedics for longer and longer, preventing them from responding to calls during that time. This depletes resources and leads to slower response time to patients in the community, who may experience an avoidable deterioration in their health outcome. Minister Jones expressed concern and committed to seeking solutions for offload delays that impact paramedic services, according to the County.
L&A County Council also participated in a joint meeting with Frontenac County with the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health Robin Martin. According to L&A County, the topic of this meeting was the governance of recently formed Ontario Health Teams (OHTs), in particular, the Frontenac-Lennox and Addington Ontario Health Team (FLAOHT).
Since the announcement of OHTs, Lennox and Addington and Frontenac County Councils have been advocating to ensure proper governance is in place at the OHT and to secure individual seats for each County at the governance table, according to the release. This effort has been ongoing for two years.
Together, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Counties tax and spend over $233M per year on services to residents, which are healthcare or directly related to social determinants of health: Long-Term Care, paramedics, public health, safe injection sites, first responder, housing and homelessness, social services, water/wastewater/septic, public safety, recreation and many more, according to the release. Municipal Councillors are elected to represent their taxpayers and oversee the use of taxpayer funds for these healthcare services. The two County Wardens explained, “It is essential for municipal representatives to have a governance role in the FLAOHT.”
Both Frontenac and L&A County Councils stated they believe that property taxpayers deserve to have their voice at the OHT table and simply request that the Province implement a consistent approach to municipal participation in OHTs and that a governance model be mandated to include a position for locally elected County representatives on the leadership of their OHT.