Craig Bakay | Apr 24, 2019
When the Provincial government announced last week that it would be cutting the number of paramedic services from 52 municipal agencies and six First Nations paramedic agencies to 10 services in total, the news was read with interest by at least one Portland District resident.
Phil Leonard, who had been Portland Reeve for many years and was the first Mayor of South Frontenac Township as well as the first Chair of the Frontenac Management Board (which replaced the County Council and Warden but was later changed back after the Board had difficulty being recognized for grant money) remembers all too well the processes that unfolded leading to Frontenac County administering ambulance services for the County and City of Kingston.
“During amalgamation, we had to split things up,” he said. “It got pretty intense.”
During negotiations, Leonard and Kingston Mayor Isabel Turner, who had been Reeve of Kingston Township, faced off on many issues.
“She wanted the Keeley Road garage,” Leonard said. “And we had to sell them the County Courthouse (which was located in Kingston).
“Selling that courthouse was a big deal.”
But he held his ground on ambulance service.
“Land ambulance was so important,” he said. “We were so afraid the City wouldn’t look after North and Central Frontenac.
“We were so glad we got it (and) I’m positive we wouldn’t have ambulance bases in Robertsville and Sydenham if we hadn’t.”
Leonard said Bob Foulds, the first CAO of the new County “was very instrumental in the negotiations and thank God for Chief (Paul) Charbonneau.
“I worried about the health and safety of our people. Rural is so much different.”
Indeed, there are distances to contend with and with about 85 per cent of the Paramedic Services’ calls being within the City limits, he was concerned budget resources wouldn’t be allocated to rural areas the way they are now.
The City of Kingston funds about 40 per cent of Frontenac Paramedic Services to the County’s 15 per cent. The remaining 45 per cent comes from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The budget itself is about $19 million this year and projected to exceed $23 million by 2023. There are 84 full-time and 76 part-time paramedics.
Like many municipal political watchers, Leonard suspects the changes to health care and ambulance services announced by the province are just the vanguard of another round of amalgamation — and he’s not sure that would be a good thing.
“Re-structuring?” he said. “Not yet but I’m more yes than no.
“I tend to think bigger isn’t better after going through amalgamation the first time.
“Townships tend to look after their own constituencies. It’s much better than it was, but . . .”
Leonard said we won’t know what’s to happen until we get the correct information but “I don’t think Doug Ford knows how to count past 10.
“But I do think there are a lot of municipal politicians who are wondering if they’ll be able to get a seat in a restructured municipality.”
Is he one of them?
“I try not to deal with it,” he said. “You get out of it and it’s time for somebody else to take over.”