Ontario’s provincial government has rejected a request from Toronto for $15 million over five years to help fight bed bugs in the city.
Health Minister Deb Matthews told reporters Monday that Liberal MPP Mike Colle held a summit recently on the bed bug problem.
“It came up with a number of recommendations. We’re reviewing that very carefully,” she said.
Paula Fletcher, representative of Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth, says the city needs to move past the studying stages and set up a bed bug task force.
Female bed bugs can lay about 300 eggs in their lifetime.
Once bedbugs get into bedding and clothing, they can be a nightmare to eliminate.
But Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s chief medical officer of health, said that his department will continue to struggle without additional resources.
“The size of the problem is new to us in the past few years. So no city has got the resources already devoted to solutions,” he said.
A meeting of the Toronto Board of Health did vote in favour of a motion from Coun. Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) to keep pushing the province for funds.
Fletcher said the city needs to move past the studying stages and set up a bed bug task force. She said the province should provide nearly $3 million so the city can establish a dedicated bed bug unit.
“Containing them, killing them with heat, caulking and sealing units, developing best practices; that is what we have learned here over the last four years. We have done enough research. We need dollars for action,” Fletcher told CTV News on Monday.
Toronto Public Health responded to more than 1,500 requests for help battling bed bugs during the first nine months of this year. It has inspected another 3,500 apartments.
Fletcher says the provincial funding would hire a dedicated staff of 17 people, including a project manager, public health inspectors and nurses. The money would also go toward improving the city’s Bug and Scrub extreme cleaning program.
Currently the city is redirecting workers from other departments to combat the bed bug scourge. But there are fears that a major outbreak or threat, such as another listeria crisis, would put an end to the war on bed bugs and lead to further growth.
But Toronto is not alone. New York, Chicago, Vancouver and other cities across the United States and Canada have faced an increase in bed bug infestations in homes and businesses.
Dan Morgan of Royal Forest Pest Services said Monday that his company has attacked the bed bug problem in $5 million homes in Forest Hill and in men’s shelters.
The bugs can hitchhike from public spaces and catch a ride home with people.
“It is awful, and people are flipping out,” said Coun. Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Michelle Dube