Council might soon be handing off its public health responsibilities in a bid to sidestep the “politicizing” of health issues some councillors say is prevalent.
A report coming to committee Thursday recommends that Ottawa create an independent board of health, made up of six city councillors, six citizen experts and a school board representative.
Councillor Peggy Feltmate said the need for a separate board of health arose from several instances in which she said municipal politics played too large a role in deciding health issues, including the cancellation of the crack pipe and drug needle distribution program.
“That was one of the times I felt we were not using our powers as the board of health wisely,” he said.
Coun. Diane Deans said she would be supporting a change in the governance structure in an effort to divorce politics from health issues, though she suggested the earliest a change could be made would be next year.
Medical Officer of Health Isra Levy said the proposed model would be able to focus more on health issues than council is able to commit right now.
He said that an independent board of health would still not settle the argument over distributing crack
pipes and drug needles, for example, but it would be able to look at the issue differently than city council.
“The nature of these debates reflects the issues themselves. It is a combination of science and community need and concern, that is relevant to be discussed by a board of health,” he said.
“Perhaps this might ensure those discussions take place in a context that focuses more on the science and public health than might otherwise happen.”