Viewpoint: Time to dispense with LHINs and District School Boards

The Bulletin’s view: Liberals bad hospital policy has aroused the reactionary right and seemingly substantiates the wrong-headed view that government can’t do anything right

By Brad Harness, Leader, Reform Ontario – 

Last week the Ontario Health Coalition issued a report that called for the elimination of the province’s Local Health Integration Networks(LHIN). The reason? The LHINs are unresponsive to local needs and are merely an extra layer of bureaucracy (hence, costly) at a time when health care funds and accountability are in short supply.

The Coalition’s report wrapped up hearings across Ontario which it held after the provincial government’s rural and northern health panel failed to hold public consultations.

The LHINs replaced local health advisory councils. They were essentially mergers, with a new name, covering much larger geography, which explains why the public views the LHINs as disconnected from local wants and needs.

Additionally, the McGuinty Government at Queen’s Park – the creators of the LHINs – then delegated hospital funding authority to the LHINs. This has allowed McGuinty MPPs to claim they have no responsibility for local hospital closure or funding decisions. It is a truism that no matter whether you are in Eastern, Northern, Central, Southern, or Western Ontario, the local LHINs are unanimously hated by the public. Much the same sentiment is expressed over the larger district school boards for similar reasons.

We must keep in mind that Liberals like BIG government, with large, all-embracing government administrative units. This is efficiency, they claim. The reality is that the further you take layers of government away from the local users, the less responsive and more expensive government becomes. Those running the show at these new larger administrative units – be they LHINs, District School Boards, or larger municipalities founded out of the forced amalgamations of the late 1990s – insist on pay and perks that suit their new, lofty positions, as well as layers of underlings to handle things for them.

Local control and accountability is the issue: Only by returning hospitals and long-term care facilities as well as schools to local (upper tier municipal) control can the needs of local citizens be both heard and actioned. Being smaller administrative units, the municipally-run health boards and education boards would be far cheaper, too, at a time of massive provincial government deficits which threatens the future of local hospitals and schools.

It can work: The Ministry of Education would still set curriculum, teacher qualifications, and run standardized testing, as well as inspect the schools to ensure students are receiving what is laid down by the ministry. The Ministry of Health would produce standards for and run inspection services of health care facilities. Both ministries would provide funding directly to upper-tier municipalities, and municipalities would continue to collection local education taxes.

Bottom line is this: Local people would be in control of the services which matter most to them, which is what they want.