| Feb 23, 2006


Feature Article - February 23, 2006

Feature Article

February 23, 2006

Province commits to ambulance funding:FrontenacCounty ambulance service welcomes announcement, but awaits details

by Jeff Green

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did not come empty handed when he addressed 1200 municipal politicians at the annual Good Roads/Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) in Toronto this week. In addressing a longstanding grievance between municipalities and the province, McGuinty announced that a historic shortfall in ambulance funding will be addressed.

Ambulance service was a provincial responsibility until 1998, when it became a municipally delivered service. At the time, the province committed to paying 50% of ambulance costs, but that promise has not been met.

Through a funding increase to an estimated $285 million this year, $333 million in 2006, and $385 million in 2008, McGuinty says the province will be paying 50% of ambulance costs by 2008.

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“Municipalities have been patient but this is an issue of fairness,” McGuinty told municipal leaders, “I’m pleased that we are finally going to be able to achieve a true 50-50 partnership.

Ambulance service in Frontenac County and the City of Kingston are delivered by the Frontenac County Ambulance Service, and Paul Charbonneau, the Director for Emergency Services for Frontenac County, welcomed the commitment by the Ontario government.

“The real question will be about the criteria for the new funding, which I understand will be clarified in the coming weeks, but this is good news, it’s definitely good news,” Charbonneau told the News.

The province currently pays about 36% of the ambulance costs in Kingston and Frontenac County , according to Paul Charbonneau, while municipal taxpayers cover the other 64%.

Charbonneau was uncertain about how much extra funding will result from this announcement. He noted that last year when the Frontenac County Ambulance service put on an extra 24-hour ambulance into service, the provincial decided not the fund the new ambulance at all.

“I think it is very unlikely that the province will say, ‘Go ahead and spend whatever you need to spend for ambulance service, and we will pay half of the costs’, but we’ll have to wait and see the details about how the new money will be allocated,” Charbonneau said.

The ambulance funding issue has been high on the priority list for the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus, of which Frontenac County is a member.

A day before the funding announcement, Paul Charbonneau accompanied Frontenac County Warden Bill Lake to a meeting with the Ontario Minister of Labour, Steve Peters, to discuss the county’s attempt to change provincial regulations regarding lunch breaks for paramedics. Last year, the Ministry of Labour ruled that guaranteed lunch breaks must be implemented among Frontenac County Paramedics, which has led to increased ambulance costs.

The county has been lobbying for regulatory changes for the past year.

As well as announcing new funding for ambulance service, Dalton McGuinty called for a federal-provincial-municipal commission to examine fiscal relations between the three levels of government, and said that the province will propose extending the term of office for municipal councillors and school trustees to four years from the current three years, a move which may be implemented in time for municipal elections this coming fall.

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