File photo of Christine Elliott by by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Former health ministers decry public health cuts

Ten former health ministers from all three parties that have held power in Ontario are urging the Ford government to reverse what they call “drastic” cuts to public health funding.

The former ministers have written an open letter to current Health Minister Christine Elliott. The signatories include former Liberal ministers Deb Matthews, George Smitherman, Helena Jaczek, Dr. Eric Hoskins, David Caplan, and Elinor Caplan; former NDP ministers Ruth Grier, Frances Lankin, and Evelyn Gigantes; and Dennis Timbrell, who served as health minister in the PC government of Premier Bill Davis.

In the letter, the former ministers stress the importance of properly funding public health as a means to prevent disease outbreaks, maintain clean water, vaccinate Ontario’s children, and provide school breakfast programs to children in need. The letter said the Ford government’s budget puts these preventative measures at risk.

“Public health in Ontario is now facing millions of dollars in cuts this year; billions of dollars in the coming years,” the letter said. “Public health officials and elected leaders across Ontario have rightfully spoken out against these cuts and the danger they pose to critical and often lifesaving public health programs. Municipalities from across the province have been clear that they cannot make up the difference created by these cuts. This cutting of public health services cannot go forward. It puts the prosperity of our communities and of our entire Province at risk. Funding must be restored.”

The former ministers point to the SARS crisis to understand the risk of not properly investing in public health. They also stressed that they did not take the decision to write the letter lightly.

“Traditionally, ministers of Health have avoided commenting on the policies of their successors,” the letter said. “Health has been seen as a non-partisan issue – something we all support. This attack on public health has prompted us to break our silence. We implore you, Minister Elliott, to stop these drastic cuts and find a way to move forward that doesn’t risk our public health services.”

The former ministers said the province should be able to, in consultation with public health officials, find savings that “don’t put the health of Ontarians at risk.”

The full letter can be read here.

In response, Elliott released the following statement on Twitter: