On the eve of the budget committee debate over Toronto's proposed service cuts, about 200 health field workers are urging city council to spare recreation programs and community grants that they say protect "the health-care system overall."
At a press conference Sunday morning, three health-care workers – a family physician, a health-policy analyst and the director of a community health office – came to City Hall waving a 200-signature petition, asking councillors to visit community programs before voting to scale them back or eliminate them entirely.
"See the impact it has before you vote. Make an informed decision, not one based on ideology," said Russ Ford, the executive director of the Lakeshore Area Multi Service Project in Etobicoke, a charity that provides a range of services such as nutrition programs and dental work.
The coalition of heath-care workers was assembled recently by Mr. Ford, after discussions with health-care colleagues, who felt that the message was not being sent that cuts to services like transport and recreation diminish the health of the city – particularly, he said, the city's most vulnerable.
Roy Male, a family doctor who practises in the low-income neighbourhood of Regent Park, highlighted how cuts to the Hardship Fund – a fund of last resort that pays items like prosthetics and wheelchairs – will affect his patients, some of whom have used the Hardship fund to even cover funerals. He also decried cuts to Wheel-Trans, and its effect on dialysis patients.
"I personally provide primary care to two dialysis patients and they are not well enough to wait on the corner for a bus to come – a bus that will probably come later now, be more crowded and cost them more."
Councillor Mike Del Grande, the city's budget chief and one of Mayor Rob Ford's allies on council, said at this point in the debate the city needed solutions for savings, not more criticism about the cuts.
"If everybody wants to start adding back everything, then this exercise has been for naught," he said.
"These adjustments will put us in a better state so we won't have to do any more of this in 2013 and 2014. That's the way I want to leave the budget. We won't be talking about cutting. We'll be talking about where we will invest when we get more revenues than we have expenditures. And that's a good position to be."