GOVERNMENT RELATIONS COMMITTEE
The Government Relations Committee (GRC) met on February 21, 2008 at 11:07 a.m. in the 5th Floor Boardroom, Regional Administrative Headquarters, 10 Peel Centre Drive, Brampton.
G. Carlson, A. Groves¨ , G. Miles¨, P. Mullin. C. Parrish, J. Sanderson, A. Thompson*
|Members Absent:||E. Kolb , due to vacation; S. Fennell|
D. Szwarc, Chief Administrative Officer; D. Labrecque, Chief Financial Officer; C. Clifford, Director, Strategic Initiatives; M. Hood, Director, Communication Services; D. Hodkin, Acting Manager, Strategic Policy; C. Thomson, Committee Clerk
Chaired by Councillor C. Parrish.
1. DECLARATIONS OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST - Nil
2. APPROVAL OF AGENDA
That the agenda for the February 21, 2008, Government Relations Committee meeting be approved.
a) Review of Action Items Arising from the Minutes of the Government Relations Committee (GRC) meeting held on January 24, 2008 (Oral)
Curry Clifford, Director, Strategic Initiatives, advised that the draft work plan has been revised in accordance with the discussion that took place at the meeting of the Committee held on January 24, 2008 and has been included on the agenda for this meeting.
In addition, all provincial Cabinet Ministers received updated information booklets highlighting human services underfunding issues in Peel, prior to their retreat which took place February 4 and 5, 2008.
b) Government Relations Strategy including Proposed Priority Issues (Oral)
Presentation by Bob Richardson, President, The Devon Group
Bob Richardson, President, The Devon Group stated that the current focus of the provincial government is on addressing poverty and suggested that the Committee maximize its ability to tie in its human services underfunding concerns, by promoting such initiatives as the Peel Newcomer Strategy.
Dan Labrecque, Chief Financial Officer suggested it may be beneficial to build a coalition with other 905 areas to advance the issue of human services underfunding, noting that the United Way undertook this approach with significant success.
Councillor Miles noted that the three area Mayors and the Regional Chair are the voices of Peel at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and stressed the importance of any messaging with respect to human services funding being complementary and consistent with that of FCM.
Councillor Miles further cautioned that while other 905 areas share the concerns related to human services underfunding, their priorities and messages to the provincial and federal governments may not be consistent with the priorities identified by Peel.
Councillor Miles stated that the Region of Peel is well positioned with respect to encouraging the Province to work together to develop solutions, noting that the Province was very impressed with the decision of Regional Council to retain the funds resulting from the uploading of ODSP and Pooling while other regions passed on the savings to area municipalities. This action by the Region of Peel clearly illustrates its commitment to addressing human services funding concerns.
Councillor Parrish suggested that the Government Relations Committee maintain the theme of Peel being the “new face of Ontario” and meet with other 905 areas to discuss potential solutions to issues that are common to all 905 areas. She further agreed that the Government Relations Committee should speak in coordination with the Regional Chair and area municipal Mayors.
Councillor Mullin stated that the housing situation in Peel appears to be unique, noting that Peel Living reserve funds will be depleted by 2009. She indicated that it would be interesting to know how the status of housing programs in Peel compares with other municipalities. Councillor Mullin suggested that consideration be given to building a case for the provincial assumption of social housing funding responsibilities while retaining the role of the Region as service manager.
Councillor Parrish indicated that it is unlikely the Province will agree to assume responsibility for social housing as it has not been that long since it was downloaded to municipalities and agreed that the Committee could work towards securing a better financial arrangement as the area of social housing ties in with the government focus on poverty. She requested that information be provided to a future Committee meeting regarding the social housing situation in Peel compared to other 905 regions.
David Szwarc, Chief Administrative Officer suggested, in the context of a discussion of roles, that the Committee could work both independently and with other Committees.
Councillor Mullin suggested that the Committee should hear from staff about provincial policy areas that are causing the greatest challenge for the Region.
Councillor Parrish indicated that the Committee needs to focus its efforts on a few key issues.
The Committee requested that the Commissioner of Human Services and General Manager, Peel Living, be invited to the meeting to provide additional information regarding challenges in the provision of social housing.
Councillor Parrish noted that another significant funding challenge for the Region of Peel is in the area of paramedic and ambulance services. Although such an issue would not appear to fit with the current focus of the provincial government, its impact on the Regional budget could be minimized through provincial policy changes.
David Szwarc, Chief Administrative Officer suggested that solutions to the paramedic and ambulance services challenges may not require significant funds from the Province but could be achieved through creative changes to current procedures.
Dan Labrecque, Chief Financial Officer, advised that currently, the Province funds approximately 46 per cent of the paramedic and ambulance services operating costs and does not fund any capital costs.
The Committee requested that the Commissioner of Health Services be invited to the meeting to provide additional information regarding challenges in the provision of paramedic and ambulance services.
Bob Richardson suggested that continued pressure on the provincial government is useful to ensure that the issue of uploading of human services funding is seen to be an ongoing priority issue. He noted that the provincial legislature is scheduled to resume sitting on March 17, 2008 and that the latest information is that the provincial budget will be presented on March 27, 2008.
Councillor Parrish noted that with respect to newcomer/immigration supports, it is important to ascertain why Peel receives $840 for settlement support when the provincial standard is $1,150.
Councillor Carlson suggested that Ministry of Community and Social Services staff be invited to meet with representatives from Peel to discuss concerns related to settlement funding in Ontario.
Councillor Thompson arrived 11:34 a.m.
Councillor Miles noted that representatives from the federal and provincial governments have experienced adversarial atmospheres when attending municipal meetings in the past, and stressed the importance of positive messaging, a congenial atmosphere and support for partnerships.
Councillor Parrish suggested that the invitation could be in the form of a thank you card, acknowledging the uploading of ODSP and the Toronto Tax and inviting them to be congratulated and to discuss other issues the Region is trying to address.
Councillor Parrish noted that, in earlier discussions, many MPPs were shocked at the funding numbers for Peel and that it would be appropriate to review the current numbers with them again.
Councillor Miles suggested that newsletters distributed by Councillors to their constituents could include information on funding issues and encouraged Communication Services staff to be in tune with messages arising from the Government Relations Committee, to enable them to assist in providing consistent information for inclusion in the newsletters.
Councillor Miles inquired how a rapport could be developed with provincial decisions makers and those who influence their decisions.
Bob Richardson undertook to prepare a list of provincial Chiefs of Staff and other influential Queens’ Park figures.
At the request of the Committee, Janette Smith, Commissioner of Health Services joined the meeting to respond to questions regarding paramedic and ambulance services.
Janette Smith described the whole system flow and how demands are managed and the challenges to managing demand at each step of the process from the time a resident calls 911 to the time the paramedic can release the patient and respond to a subsequent call. There are improvements that could be made at each step of the process.
Janette Smith indicated that the issues affecting the provision of paramedic and ambulance services ties in with other health care issues in that a shortage of acute care beds affects the ability of the hospital to move patients out of the emergency ward which results in paramedics being required to wait with patients at the hospital anywhere from three to 12 hours. This cost the Region approximately $6 Million in 2007. A shortage of long term care beds in the community affects the ability of the hospital to discharge patients. She noted that the Central West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) has acknowledged that there is insufficient capacity in the current system and that they are working to develop solutions.
Janette Smith advised that in 2007, Peel Paramedic and Ambulance Services was on “code capacity” 78 times. Code Capacity means there are no paramedic units available and service during that time must be provided from other jurisdictions.
She noted that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Toronto, made addressing emergency room delays a priority and his efforts appear to be having significant results. However, the CEOs of Peel-area hospitals have not made the issue a priority.
David Szwarc, Chief Administrative Officer noted that only 20 per cent of patients waiting in hospital emergency rooms are brought in by ambulance and that significant change in hospital protocol is required. He suggested that unique solutions may be available such as the ability of paramedics to “treat and release” patients who are deemed not to require hospital care. He suggested this requires a re-framing of the service offering as not simply a transportation system.
Councillor Groves noted that continued messaging to the public is required to reinforce the danger of abusing the 911 system.
Councillor Sanderson indicated it is important to understand the specific causes of the $6 Million in lost time and how that could be better managed within the hospitals.
Councillor Parrish requested that the Commissioner of Health Services report to the Government Relations Committee on the issues affecting the Paramedic and Ambulance Services, including; where the blockages are in the system flow; suggested solutions to address these blockages; and, with the assistance of the Devon Group, suggested contacts that the Region needs to influence to address the issues. She further requested that the 2007 KPMG report to review ambulance offload delays, including capacity issues for acute care and long term care and challenges related to in-patient flow, be presented to a future meeting of the Committee.
Councillor Thompson indicated it is important to sit down with the hospital CEOs to address the wait time issue, especially the $6 Million in lost time.
Approach for Interaction between Government Relations Committee (GRC) and Other Committees of Council (Oral)
Discussion led by Carolyn Parrish, Chair, Government Relations Committee
The Committee concurred that the distribution of Committee minutes to all members of Regional Council is a sufficient means of keeping abreast of the work of Committees of Council.
Councillor Miles departed 12:03 p.m.
It was also suggested that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs be invited to attend Government Relations Committee meetings when areas under the purview of their Committees are being discussed.
Mechanism to Keep the Government Relations Committee Informed of Other Government Relations Activities (Oral)
Discussion led by Curry Clifford, Director, Strategic Initiatives, Executive Office
Curry Clifford, Director, Strategic Initiatives noted that a list of 21 issues was presented to the Committee at its meeting held on January 24, 2008 and undertook to provide updates at future Committee meetings regarding those issues, as they become available, to enable the Committee to focus its work on the identified priorities.
He noted that he and David Hodkin, Acting Project Manager, Strategic Policy, are working with the Mississauga Board of Trade to develop an advocacy approach to address concerns with respect to goods movement.
Councillor Groves departed at 12:05 p.m.
At the request of the Committee, Keith Ward, Commissioner of Human Services and General Manager, Peel Living, joined the meeting to respond to questions regarding the housing situation in Peel.
Keith Ward undertook to provide an update to a future Government Relations Committee meeting with respect to the concerns related to the provision of social housing and include comparisons with other 905 Regions.
Keith Ward advised that the waiting list for housing in Peel is disproportionately long compared to other regions, largely due to growth. The available subsidize housing supply is virtually non-existent and when combined with the population growth in Peel, the waiting list keeps increasing. This is putting the social fabric at risk. Another significant challenge is the maintenance of existing housing stock.
Councillor Parrish requested that the Commissioner of Human Services and General Manager, Peel Living include potential solutions, such as changes to existing by-laws and policies, in his update to a future GRC meeting.
Councillor Mullin advised that victims of family violence receive priority standing on the waiting list for housing which further impacts the length of time other applicants remain on the list. She suggested that victims of family violence should be directed to other community supports which would enable more families to move up on the waiting list.
Keith Ward indicated that provincial policy changes with respect to the support of victims of family violence would have an immediate benefit and would not require significant expenditures. It is estimated that Peel Living lost $1.5 million in 2007 in rental revenue as a result of the priority placement of victims of family violence.
Councillor Thompson noted that funds have been made available by the federal government for social housing however, the Province has yet to determine how the funds will be distributed. He suggested that Peel develop a formula for the distribution of the funds and present it to the Province for consideration.
Councillor Mullin noted that what we want is more social housing and not more shelters as we are seeing more working people and families having to use shelters.
The Chief Administrative Officer was requested by Councillor Parrish to include an analysis of immigration funding at a future meeting of the Committee.
e) Proposed Workplan Budget
See also item 3f
A proposed 2008 Government Relations Committee workplan was presented with an estimated cost of $190,000.
Proposed Government Relations Committee Recommendations to Regional Council (Oral)
Discussion led by Carolyn Parrish, Chair, Government Relations Committee
That, in order to fulfill its mandate, the function of the Government Relations Committee be to assist other Committees of Regional Council in their efforts to improve funding and public policy for needed programs and services in Peel;
And further, that the Government Relations Committee focus its advocacy efforts in 2008 on the following three Human Services issues:
1. reducing/eliminating provincial downloading of human services costs to municipalities;
2. enhancement of newcomer/immigration supports; and
3. development of a growth-based funding formula for programs and services for people who call Peel home.
And further, that Government Relations Committee activities be directed at building relationships with Peel MPPs, MPs and other stakeholders to support the efforts of Regional Council to advance key issues with the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada, specifically targeting, for the next two to twelve months, paramedic and ambulance services, social housing shortages and adequate funding for New Canadian settlement;
And further, that subject to the recommendation of the Chief Financial Officer on the appropriate source of funding, a budget not to exceed $190,000 be approved to support the Government Relations Committee 2008 Workplan.
See also item 3e
4. COMMUNICATIONS - Nil
5. OTHER BUSINESS - Nil
6. NEXT MEETING
The next meeting date of the Government Relations Committee is scheduled for Thursday, March 20, 2008, immediately following General Committee, Regional Administrative Headquarters, 5th Floor Boardroom, 10 Peel Centre Drive, Brampton, Ontario.
Please forward regrets to Christine Thomson, Committee Clerk, (905) 791-7800, extension 4582 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The meeting adjourned at 12:27 p.m.