There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the world of politics is not for the faint of heart or squeamish. Unless you have a pretty tough skin, can stickhandle around barriers like Sidney Crosby and the determination deeper than any hard rock mine, stay clear of the political arena. But for those who have such attributes, it can be one of the most rewarding of careers.
A recent success for one NDP bill caused me to consider the quality strength and determination some of my colleagues in fighting for what is right and never giving in. Former basketball player, coach and executive Pat Riley once said, “If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.”
Just recently after its second reading, the Ontario Legislature referred NDP Teresa Armstrong’s Bill 13, A Time to Care Act, to be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Social Policy. It was approved with 80 “yes” votes and zero “no” votes. Doug Ford has committed his government to moving ahead with this bill. If Ford keeps his promise, this will be truly outstanding news for Ontario seniors and their families who care for them.
It is interesting to note that Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gélinas, in her first election campaign in 2007, initially raised the issue of setting a minimum standard time that long-term care (LTC) staff must spend with patients. Prior to the Harris Conservative Government there had been a two hour standard, but the Conservatives totally eliminated any minimum standard in 2003. In fact this is the fourth time since 2016 that New Democrats have proposed this legislation\ — each time having it shot down by governments that had priorities higher than caring for our seniors.
Now we have a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel that change will finally come. All it took was a nightmarish, deadly pandemic to bring the government to finally see the need. People living in LTC have been neglected and put at risk for years. Prior to the pandemic, we had all heard heartbreaking stories of seniors dehydrated, injured without explanation, left to develop bedsores, and not being given the time or the help to eat, dress themselves, bathe or even get to the bathroom. It’s a revolving door of underpaid, part-time workers, like personal support workers, have been run off their feet for years.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Days ago, Doug Ford announced that the Conservatives would support the four-hours of care standard. In one breath Ford said that there is no time to waste and that they will begin taking action now, promising that the 2020 Ontario budget would increase daily direct care in our LTC homes to four hours per day. He said it would mean hiring thousands of new support workers. But then in the next breath he said that the best they can do is make this happen by 2025.
I suggest that Mr. Ford look to Quebec who put a plan in place to hire 10,000 personal support workers after the first wave of COVID-19, so they’d be ready for the second wave. Also look to British Columbia who hired 7,000 for the second wave. But here in Ontario, we lost one-third of our personal support workers, as a result of low-pay, and refusing to give personal support workers full-time jobs, forcing them to work two or three part-time gigs instead. But even now, finally recognizing the urgent need to improve care for our seniors, and how other provinces have stepped up their game, Ford is bold facedly telling an entire generation of long-term care residents that help is still five years away. Many cannot wait that long. None should have to.
The Time to Care Act bill would guarantee a minimum of four hours of hands on care per resident per day. Over 100,000 Ontarians have signed petitions in support of a daily minimum standard of care; petitions collected by family councils, church groups and PSWs, many of them from Nickel Belt. It is far past time residents received the care they need.
This is not the time for vague political gestures. We need action right now to save lives. That starts by bringing this bill to a final vote right away, and committing the funding needed to give our seniors the safety and care they desperately need. We can do this quickly if we make it a priority. The NDP joins families and frontline workers in their deep concern that a promise to get this done years from now isn’t much of a promise at all.
The NDP has laid out a very detailed plan called the Aging Ontarians Deserve the Best. It’s a plan to overhaul home care and long-term care, including record spending to eliminate wait lists, build 50,000 new spaces, implement the minimum four hours of care standard, and bring all homes into the public and non-profit sectors.
As the MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, my job is to bring the voices of Northern Ontarians to be heard in Queen’s Park. But to do that I first must listen to what those voices are saying. What I am hearing these days are the voices of people who are anxious, worried and sometimes even angry. Some even almost verging on feeling helpless and hopeless. But that is not who Northern Ontarians are. We are not helpless. We are not without hope. We have experience, strength, character and, most importantly, each other to see us through.
Former President Barack Obama said, “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” This is why the NDP is keeping it’s commitment to not just oppose but propose. This is why New Democrats have proposed the Time to Care Act a total of four times since 2016. We are determined to do what is right and what is good for all Ontarians. We are determined to make a difference.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député