Among the many traits that my friends of First Nations descent tend to hold most dearly, I would without hesitation say that the honour and respect they hold for their Elders is one that I admire most. Within First Nations communities, Elders can hold significant power. They are revered for their ability to impart bit by bit their experience and culture to the younger generations. Traditionally, Elders are the ones who lead their community and they are revered for the knowledge, wisdom and leadership that they impart.
As much as Canadians in general like to think that we hold similar honour and respect for our elders, in truth we don’t do enough to show it. Just consider this statistic: Here in Canada, more than 7800 people have died from COVID-19, which is terrible of course. But, what is absolutely horrifying is the fact that more than 6500 (84%) of these deaths were residents in private-for-profit long-term-care homes. You don’t need to be a statistician to realize that there is clearly a problem here.
COVID-19 has proven to have a devastating impact on private-for-profit care. Across Ontario people are twice as likely to die if, during an outbreak, they are in a for-profit long-term care (LTC) home instead of a non-profit home.
For decades, Conservative governments, including Doug Ford’s and Mike Harris’s before him, have been hell-bent on privatizing services that are paid for with public funding. This includes LTC and healthcare wherever possible. To be certain, their have been numerous hands involved in brining our healthcare system to its current state are many. The Liberals certainly followed in step to the Conservative march to privatization. In fact, I admit that my NDP colleagues and I were unsuccessful in causing previous governments to change direction.
Right now Ontarians are focussed on what we need to do to get through this terrible pandemic. And it is right now that Ford wants to turn the responsibility of managing our health care and senior care over to private-for-profit corporations.
Shortly after taking office, the Ford Government knowingly weakened the regulations for inspection of LTC facilities. New Democrats and many, many other concerned groups warned that this was a recipe for disaster. Ask yourself, what is the main objective of any corporation? There is no sugar coating it – it’s profits – pure and simple.
Under current legislation, prospective homecare and LTC patients are assessed by one of the 14 publicly funded Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) to determine if individuals qualify for some form of homecare or LTC. If passed, Ford’s new legislation would turn the responsibility for assessment and assignment of homecare or LTC service entirely over to for-profit companies. Companies that would focus primarily on opportunities to maximize profits at worker and patient expense.
It seems that it is no coincidence that, all of a sudden, in the middle of the confusion of this pandemic, Doug Ford decides this is a good time to totally upend our homecare and LTC programs with the Connecting Care Act (Bill 175). Now, while everyone’s attention is focussed upon re-opening the province, Ford is using this distraction to ram through legislative changes that will totally replace the current system. And he is doing it under the pretext of convincing Ontarians that he has seen the light and is going to take immediate action to protect seniors in LTC and improve our homecare programs.
The Conservatives have rushed Bill 175 through First and Second Reading in the Legislature in just 10 days. It was rammed through by design so that stakeholders, families and experts would be focussed on other urgent matters at hand and would have not time to study the bill to understand and comment on its implications. Without public pressure, Bill 175 will pass before anyone can organize any form of debate in the Legislature or public involvement.
New Democrats envision a system in which every dollar goes into care and quality of life, not profit margins. Where health care workers are paid a living wage, with benefits and a pension that reflect their worth, so they can take time to interact with residents and deliver excellent care. We envision a system where smaller homes rooted in close-knit, culturally sensitive and engaged communities are available to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.
NDP Health Critic France Gélinas notes that in a system in which contracts are awarded based solely on the lowest bid, you can be certain that that contractor will only pay minimum wage and limit them to part time work so they don’t have to pay benefits or provide sick pay. Such employment opportunities will not attract the highest quality workers. As a result the quality of care provided by the PSWs and LTC workers will be lower.
Gélinas proposed no less than 20 amendments including:
Improving working conditions for personal support workers (PSWs) who provide home care.
Removing profits from health care
Bringing accountability and transparency on how organizations spend publicly funded health dollars
Keeping the Patient Bill of Rights enshrined in law
The Conservatives voted down every single amendment the NDP put forward. Instead of joining us in the fight for better care, the Liberals chose to sit on their hands and abstain from voting on removing profits from health care.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député