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FORUM: Rare summer legislature sittings (Sept. 2022)

September 27th, 2022 · No Comments

Passing damaging bills while no one is paying attention

By Jessica Bell

Queen’s Park Roundup

The Ford government is passing damaging legislation in the middle of the summer while attention on politics is low. Here’s what’s happening.

The government’s 2022-2023 budget falls short

The budget does not do enough to help people in need, properly fund public services, or tackle the climate crisis with the urgency that is required.

When inflation and enrolment is factored in, education funding has been cut. The Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that funding to each student has been cut by $800 over the past five years. This is why class sizes have grown, there’s inadequate support for kids who are struggling, and buildings are not being adequately maintained. This September, many schools in University-Rosedale are losing teachers and staff. In a blatant bid to woo parents, the government has promised $225 million in cash payments to pay for private tutoring. That funding should be invested in schools. 

The budget doesn’t allocate enough funding to the environment. There’s no funding for climate programs to green our electricity, transportation or building sectors. While there is a big increase in funding to build four new transit lines, there’s no funding to operate the thousands of transit routes already in operation. The government is also going full speed ahead with the Bradford Bypass and Highway 413, locking us into unsustainable car use and suburban sprawl.

The new minimum wage of $15.50 per hour begins on October 1.  With inflation at over seven per cent, workers need a $20 minimum wage to afford to live in Ontario and build a fair economy.

After 27 years of no increase, the government will raise the Ontario Disability Support Program rates by a paltry $58 a month, or 5 per cent. People cannot live on $1258 a month. Social assistance rates should be doubled and indexed to inflation.  

Funding for health care has flatlined even though every hospital is struggling with high demand and staff shortages. In University-Rosedale, Sick Kids has over 3400 kids waiting for surgery beyond the acceptable time frame. In July, three of Toronto General’s intensive care units reached bed capacity, including units for cardiovascular and coronary issues and medical surgery. And on July 24, Toronto Western Hospital’s emergency room almost shut down due to a staffing shortage but was able to secure enough last-minute workers to remain open. Emergency rooms should never close. Ever.

Bad health-care reforms are coming

Instead of investing in health care, the government’s response has been to permit thousands more surgeries at private clinics. 

This won’t help. Private clinics draw from the same pool of staff as hospitals. Recruiting staff trained to work in hospital operating rooms to private clinics will just make the staffing shortages and surgery backlogs at hospitals even worse.  

 We don’t know yet if a private clinic can receive OHIP funding for surgery and then bill the patient for a top-up. But we do know patients will certainly be billed for other services, such as food, a private room, and additional testing. Those who have insurance and savings will choose the private operation. Those who cannot pay will wait longer for surgery in a public hospital.

The Ford government also introduced Bill 7 which gives hospitals greater coercive power to move patients to long-term care (LTC) homes without their consent. Patients who stay could be billed the maximum rate of $1200 a day.  Almost 5,000 hospital beds (or 24 per cent of all beds) are taken up by patients waiting to be discharged, with 1,850 waiting to go into long-term care. These patients are classified as ALC, meaning Alternative Level of Care.

No one wants to stay in a hospital longer than necessary. The challenge is that sometimes there isn’t an adequate place for a person to go. Bill 7 will mean these people will end up in LTC homes that have available beds. These will almost certainly be for-profit homes with overworked staff, aging infrastructure, four people to a room, and one washroom to a floor. It is next to impossible to move a person from one LTC home to a better one. The home a person moves to will almost certainly be the home where they die. 

We are advocating with experts like the Ontario Health Coalition and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly to push for a better response to our health-care crisis that includes wage increases for health-care workers to increase staffing levels, paid care for people who can return home, and improvements to the quality of long-term care homes. We need a kind response to our health-care crisis that respects people’s rights, not a cruel one.

Please contact our office if you want to work on these issues or have questions or concerns.

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale and the Official Opposition’s Housing Critic.


Tags: Annex · Opinion