United Way coalition asks province for help in fast-growing regions

TheStar.com – GTA – United Way coalition asks province for help in fast-growing regions: Funding for 905 area is $193 less per person than in other parts of Ontario, report shows
December 10, 2008. Leslie Ferenc, Staff Reporter

A coalition of United Ways from Peel, York, Durham and Oakville are pushing for better access to health care and social services in rapidly growing communities where services aren’t keeping pace with demand.

The United Ways – joined by the Growing Communities Healthcare Alliance, the York Region Human Services Planning commission and Peel Fair Share Task Force – are responding to a recent report that reveals how millions of residents in fast-growing communities continue to be shortchanged by inequitable provincial funding.

United Way of Peel CEO Shelley White, a member of the Strong Communities Coalition, called on the Ontario government to provide equitable funding to “help build strong, supportive and healthy communities that will play a key role in Ontario’s economic turnaround.”

The coalition is also calling for the establishment of a task force to look at how to improve funding of health and social services in burgeoning areas, which affects about 4 million people.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report, the third annual commissioned by the Strong Communities Coalition, found in 2006-2007 that provincial funding for social services in the GTA/905 was $193 less per person than elsewhere in Ontario, resulting in a $641.9 million shortfall in burgeoning communities.

To bring those regions in line with the rest of the province would mean more than doubling funding, the report noted.

Per capita spending for hospital services in the GTA/905 – as well as in Kitchener and Waterloo region, and Simcoe, Wellington and Dufferin counties – was $255 less than the rest of Ontario, while funding for community-based and long-term services was $84 less per resident. That translates into a $1.404 billion operating funding gap each year for hospital care in these municipalities and a $526 million shortfall for community-based long-term services.

“By investing in hospital services, community-based health-care services and social services in high-growth communities, the provincial government will help keep Ontarians healthy and productive,” White said after the report was released.

“Fair funding in high-growth communities for key human services will provide families with support as they are affected by the economic downturn and ensure that our seniors and most vulnerable are protected.”

Anne McGuire, chair of the Growing Communities Healthcare Alliance, noted the funding formula for health and social services must be revamped and based on population growth and changing demographics.

“This will ensure that limited provincial funds for social services and health care is allocated based on the relative needs of our communities.”

Between 2001 and 2010, population in the GTA/905 is expected to grow by 32.3 per cent, compared to 11.5 per cent across Ontario.

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