AMO President Jamie McGarvey Remarks
Association of Local Public Health Agencies Fall Symposium
Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at 3:45 PM (TBC)
6th Floor, Room 610 Auditorium
Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Health Sciences Building, University of Toronto
155 College Street, Toronto, ON M5T 3M7

Good afternoon.

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here today.

It’s been said that if you have your health, you have everything.

Yes, it’s a cliché. But it speaks to how important good health is to our quality of life and success.

And the same is true for communities.

Promoting healthy living and protecting public health are key to creating strong communities.

That’s why municipal governments have been involved in public health for almost 150 years.

For 120 of those years, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has been working to advance the goals of municipal governments across a variety of fronts.

Our work, and that of public health agencies, is highly aligned.

Our partnership with alPHa is strong.

The work of public health agencies is highly valued in our communities.

It is one of the many local, front-line public services that people rely on.  

Besides contributing to public health budgets, municipal governments also strive to provide good roads, safe streets and clean drinking water – and almost everything else that makes a community strong.

 We provide them all on tight budgets.

And we share some important values with public health agencies.

By necessity, we all value:
  • innovation…
  • efficiency…
  • collaboration…
  • teamwork…
  • problem solving…
  • and practical common sense.
AMO is proud to serve Ontario’s municipal governments – and we are proud of what municipal governments do.

Policy decisions at AMO are made by a 43-member board.

It is comprised of people from every part of Ontario.

And, they represent all kinds of communities, from upper-tier governments and urban centres, to remote towns and rural hamlets.

Our broad range of perspectives makes us stronger.

We are all different – but we work together well.

We speak and listen respectfully.  

We look for solutions that bridge differences.

We work together to serve all of our communities well.

Our policy work benefits from our Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Ontario.

The MOU requires the Province, by law, to consult with us on matters involving municipal governments.

It gives us direct access to Ministers and staff.

We currently work with 23 different ministries.

It allows us to have frank conversations with Ministers about the impact of their decisions, and of the unintended consequences.

They may not always listen, but we can always be assured that they are fully informed.

In areas of health care, we often remind them that municipal governments punch above their weight.

Health care is a provincial responsibility.

Yet, municipal governments contribute a steadily increasing amount of funding, each year, to the province’s healthcare system.

Municipal governments co-fund programs like public health, long-term care and paramedic services.

We also contribute capital funding for hospitals.

Municipal governments also invest - in social services, housing, infrastructure, transit and recreation programs.

As you well know, these services help promote healthy living and address the socio-economic factors that affect people’s health.

Your work in public health is an important part of our commitment to quality health services.

Just as your agencies were doing a hundred years ago, you continue to fight the spread of infectious disease.

And just as the world makes progress in one area, another challenge arises.

Vaccination has never been more important.

The opioid crisis is threatening life expectancy.  

Cannabis and vaping are rising public health concerns.

Effective public health responses to these risks are  important to the future of the province, and critical to reducing costs and pressures in the acute health care system.  

Public health, and its core mandate of providing upstream preventative health and health promotion, is essential to meeting the province’s objective to reduce hallway medicine.

That said,  there is uncertainty on the public health front.

We shared your alarm when in-year cuts were announced in the provincial budget in April.

There was relief that the government stepped back from in-year changes.

But we know the new funding formula will be a major challenge for many municipal governments along with Boards of Health.

It will impact different communities in different ways.

There are no easy answers.

We know that you are in the midst of your 2020 budget deliberations. You are looking at the new 70:30 funding formula.

As you are trying to square that circle, know that municipal councils are also working on their 2020 municipal budgets.  

We all have fiscal sustainability challenges that we need to work through while continuing to work together. [Pause]

The Province continues to pursue reform in public health and emergency health services.

We were delighted  last month, when Minister Elliot announced a special advisor to lead consultations on these reforms.

Hastings County CAO Jim Pine has made a career of finding practical solutions, and delivering positive results.

He is well known and respected across the municipal community.

I believe his consultation signals this government’s willingness to listen.

After all, we are all here to serve the people of Ontario to the best of our ability.

And we serve Ontario best when we all work well together.

Ontario and municipal governments both face challenges.

AMO believes we should face them openly and work together.

Because we serve the same taxpayers, the same constituents, and the same communities.

It is fair to say that solutions to these challenges will have a common set of ingredients.

Those ingredients are time, money, innovation, and cooperation.

Successful changes always have these ingredients.

We understand the province has some fundamental goals:
  • More efficient government services.
  • Greater respect for Ontario’s tax payers.
  • And fiscal sustainability.
We know these goals.

Same taxpayer.

Same constituents.

Same communities.

Working together, we can avoid unnecessary turmoil, and respect the essential front line-services that our governments deliver.

We can get there, but it will take investments in time… money… innovation… and cooperation.

It always does.

To be frank, we believe that greater cooperation with municipal governments can help the Ontario government to achieve more.

Working together – in partnership – we would serve people better…

And make better use of tax dollars.

AMO is committed to maintaining strong channels between our two orders of government.

Our association exists, in  part, to make sure that we always have quality conversations.

We will always approach our relationship that way.

AMO is not an organization that advocates from the Queen’s Park lawn.

AMO sits at a shared table, and speaks respectfully, face-to-face.

We appreciate that the government is now taking the time to consult and listen.

On public health, we understand the province is open to ideas and does not have  a pre-determined outcome.

They have committed to listening to municipal leaders, the public health and emergency health services sectors, and others, to guide their reforms.

AMO will bring forward practical solutions that work best for residents and municipal governments.

We will look to fix what needs fixing, and to preserve what works well. As you know, there are a lot of things that do work well.

We look forward to our own partnership with alPHa as we enter this new process.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this event.

I will now pass it over to Monika Turner, AMO’s Director of Policy, who is going to provide some updates on other AMO policy work that may be of interest to alPHa members.  

After she is finished, we are both happy to take any questions you might have.