Since recreational cannabis became legal in October, individual provinces and municipalities have been working to iron out the finer details of what the new regime will look like in their jurisdictions.
Toronto councillors and the union representing Toronto paramedics condemned the Ford government‘s move to freeze funding for emergency services, saying the city is already facing a shortfall.
In a press conference on Friday morning, Mike Merriman, Toronto Paramedic Services unit chair for CUPE Local 416, said the funding freeze by the provincial government, which accounts to $3.8 million for services, is equivalent to around 60 fewer paramedics in the city.
“They (paramedics) cannot keep up with the ever-increasing call volume and the lack of staffing. We’re approximately 300 paramedics short as of today and we needed a mass infusion of paramedics yesterday,” Merriman said.
“Things are that bad. It’s taking us a lot longer to get to calls, and I truly believe public safety is at risk. People’s lives hang in the balance.”
WATCH: Toronto paramedics, councillors slam cuts by Ford government, call for reverse course
Last month, the province notified the City of Toronto that this year’s land ambulance grant funding would remain unchanged from 2018. Toronto Paramedic Services said the funding freeze would result in a $3.8 million shortfall or cut.
Jim Karygiannis, councillor for Ward 22, Scarborough-Agincourt, said he’s calling on Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet to rescind the move as it greatly affects response times for paramedics.
“If there’s a crisis in North Etobicoke and we need to get somebody to respond there, it will take an extra 15 per cent longer. That’s totally unacceptable,” Karygiannis said.
He urged residents to pick up the phone and personally call the premier. Karygiannis gave the premier’s personal phone number at the press conference.
Joe Cressy, councillor for Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York, added that councillors are sounding the alarm because they know less funding will make things worse, if not dangerous.
“This province, not only are they cutting funding from public health and impacting our ability to keep people healthy, they’re now cutting funding of $3.8 million to paramedic services,” Cressy said. “So they’re not helping us prevent diseases in the first place, and if you get sick, they’re making it harder for us to respond to help people.”
Last month, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced that Toronto Public Health was advised that the province would be slashing approximately $1 billion in funding over the next 10 years.