SD&G says no to make EMS essential service

(Newswatch Group/File)

SD&G – The United Counties won’t be supporting South Glengarry’s mission to make paramedics an essential service in Ontario until the province fixes its arbitration system.

County councillors voted Monday to maintain the current collective bargaining process until the Ontario government changes arbitration to consider a local municipality’s ability to pay.

The county pays 60 per cent of eligible EMS costs in SD&G; Cornwall pays 40 per cent. The service is delivered by the City of Cornwall. The entire operating budget of Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services is $13.2 million. The county pays just over $4 million a year for EMS while the City of Cornwall pays about $2.4 million.

CAO Tim Simpson told council the South Glengarry resolution “caused me some concern because there’s a lot more to the collective bargaining process than you get a sense of in that motion.”

Under the current limited essential service system, during the three week city strike in May, there were three ambulances covering SD&G during the day and two at night, instead of the usual nine. Ambulance calls were also supported by neighbouring jurisdictions not on strike, like Prescott-Russell and Leeds-Grenville, under the Ambulance Act.

Simpson said he spoke with Cornwall CAO Maureen Adams about it and “she’s supportive of it (the county’s position).”

“Essentially what happens is, through the arbitration process, salaries and wages go up to the highest level and that’s just the way it works,” the CAO said.

“We’re not saying paramedics are not important, they are absolutely very important. What we’re saying is there needs to be a system that will actually work.”

Simpson added that and even better situation would be that, if the costs of paramedics went up, there would need to be a “commensurate level of service agreement.”

Simpson said it was “unfortunate” the issue came up through a resolution from South Glengarry.

The township’s resolution is still making its way to other Ontario municipalities through AMO, as well as Premier Doug Ford, local MPP Jim McDonell and the Ministry of Labour.