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Provincial cuts a challenge

Region will need to pony up more for public health, childcare spaces

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Regional chair John Henry says downloads of public health and child care funding are a new challenge for the region.

Starting on Jan. 1, municipalities will have to pay 30 per cent of public health care costs, and 20 per cent for the creation of new child care spaces.

Before the announcement, municipalities had varying cost-sharing arrangements the province, with Ontario funding anywhere from 75 to 100 per cent.

Some cuts to funding for new child care spaces will be delayed until 2021 or 2020.

The downloads come after the Ford government had before tried to enforce similar funding cuts, but cancelled after municipalities complained they had already passed their annual budgets.

With a deep sigh, Henry says he understands the provincial government has challenges, but he points out the region and lower-tier municipalities face unique budget restraints as well.

“Our job as elected leaders is to remember that we’re about people,” he says. “It’s important that we have everything we need in place to continue to support what we have and we always try to expand that.”

He adds the cuts will make new demands for the region and its staff.

“This is a challenge we have across the entire province,” he continues. “In Durham… we are a centre of growth, and with growth comes more people, and with more people we have increased pressures on our paramedics, our policing, our fire services, and our municipalities to deliver the services that people expect.”

With the cuts there is the potential for increased taxes, but Henry says it’s too early to know.

He points out the region will begin the 2020 budget process in September.

“Municipal governments, regional governments, by nature tend to be cost efficient… using continuous improvement methodologies to try every year to do more with minimal impact to the taxpayers, and going forward, I hope that we will continue to deliver great services with a minimal impact, at least somewhere around where we were last year, if not a little bit better,” he says.