Norfolk council agrees Mayor Kristal Chopp should dispel some of the stories that are circulating at Queen’s Park about the county’s 2020 budget.
But council did not support the brusque tone of the motion that came before it at their most recent meeting on Feb. 18.
“I cannot and will not support your motion,” Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus told the mayor.
“Norfolk council should not be dragged into bickering or a vendetta with our MPP,” said Columbus. “Support for the mayor’s motion only perpetuates animosity between Norfolk council and the provincial government.
“Council’s support for such a motion will reflect badly on Norfolk council as a whole and serves only to divide the residents of this county moreso than they are divided now.”
The original motion said local MPP Toby Barrett “had made inaccurate statements about restructuring at the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.”
In an interview, Chopp cited a Feb. 10 posting on social media where Barrett supported allegations from the Ontario Nurses Association and the official opposition New Democrats that Norfolk council – as the board of health for Norfolk and Haldimand counties – cut front-line services at the health unit while increasing administration.
“This board of health decision flies in the face of the provincial government’s call to find more efficient and effective ways to provide public health, as opposed to cutting front-line nursing and expanding administration,” Barrett said.
Chopp says ONA, the New Democrats and Barrett misrepresented what really happened. On Feb. 18, the mayor said Norfolk council eliminated two administration positions during January’s budget deliberation while filling a third with a qualified nurse.
Chopp also wants the ministry to know that Norfolk council increased spending this year on paramedic services by $600,000. This, she said, represents an additional investment in front-line health care.
Chopp’s motion was defeated in a 6-3 vote. Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts agreed with Columbus that the motion was more “combative” than necessary.
“That seems to be the flavour of this motion as it stands,” Rabbitts said. “It needs some word-smithing and an olive branch to our MPP.”
Council approved a generic motion asking that Municipal Affairs Minister Steven Clark meet with Chopp and share any concerns he might have with Norfolk’s budget.
Some on Norfolk council are displeased that Barrett’s office referred complaints about the budget to Queen’s Park.
Chopp says Norfolk council has stayed out of the Ford government’s dispute with teachers unions. She said the municipality would appreciate the same consideration when it comes to municipal issues affecting Norfolk.
Barrett normally refers callers to their respective ward councillor when their concern is local. In this case, however, council is on side with the budget it passed.
“We’re for the front-line worker,” Barrett said Feb. 18. “I was defending the province when it comes to the laying off of nurses. That’s not what this government is about.”
Norfolk council approved a budget with significant service cuts and an 8.4 per cent increase in residential taxes.