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FORUM: Meddling in municipal affairs (May 2019

May 28th, 2019 · No Comments

Province’s intrusion will impact quality of life

By Michael Layton

Since the province decided to cut Council in half, there has been a clear trend of decision making that aims to marginalize the City of Toronto and its residents’ voices on many critical issues. The trend continued this month as the province revealed details of their plan to try and steal our subway, and made life-and-death decisions about addiction treatment.

The announcement that the province will cut funding to two of Toronto’s overdose prevention sites, Street Health at Dundas and Sherbourne streets and St. Stephen’s Community House in Kensington Market, where 60% of their clients are women, was widely condemned by health professionals. These sites have saved hundreds of lives in Toronto. They are now at risk of closing completely as they require funding to continue operations.

Toronto Public Health has made it clear that the opioid crisis is far from over. Last month we saw a record 474 calls to Toronto Paramedic Services from overdose cases and a surge in overdose deaths. This is the second highest month on record since Toronto Public Health first began reporting on paramedics’ data in August 2017. The majority of these calls and cases continue to come from Toronto’s downtown core, but the issue is widespread. 

The City’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, frontline workers, and those who use harm reduction services as a life line are all in agreement: we are in a dire situation that needs further attention and support, not cuts.

Overdose is the leading cause of death for young people in our province and supervised consumption sites are a proven life-saving healthcare tool.  People on the frontlines of harm reduction models of service have been developing networks of support and programming based on the realities of addiction in Toronto for over 30 years. These sites are the direct evolution of Public Health-sanctioned and evidence-based programming.

Toronto Public Health needs to be trusted to do their job. Doctors should determine treatment, not politicians. Doug Ford and the Ministry of Health are turning a blind eye to the evidence and life experience of those who are closest to the issue.

The chief medical officer of health was unequivocal in stating that the closure of these sites will absolutely lead to more deaths and take us further from the solution to the opioid epidemic that our city needs. 

This is the defining health crisis of our time and the mayor, councillors, and the city’s chief medical officer of health have all condemned the decision to cut funding. I will continue to advocate for its restoration and look for ways to maintain funding for these life-saving services.

While dealing with this public health emergency, we are also facing the threat of losing control of our transit planning and subways. I recently had the opportunity to canvass Christie Station and heard from many residents concerned about rising fares, with no tangible service increases.

The proposal by Doug Ford to steal our subway has zero evidence, zero consultation, zero funding, and therefore no plan. It is a core responsibility of a major city to plan its transit routes and to do that our ownership must be maintained. This intrusion into the planning of our transit routes will have serious economic and transportation impacts, and a negative impact on the future of transit riders across the city.

I passed a motion at the March city council meeting requesting the public disclosure of a value-for-money assessment for all transit projects that are currently under discussion. This information will provide all residents of Toronto with the real cost of the projects the province plans to prioritize and will help guide our decision making on this integral policy matter. 

The decisions of the provincial government this past week are setting us on a dangerous course toward creating a Toronto that will lead to a decreased quality of life for many. We cannot stand for this. I will fight alongside you to ensure that the future of our city is one where we are prioritizing plans and services that meet the needs of all residents.

Mike Layton is city councillor for Ward 11 University-Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion