The day after Ontario’s Auditor General report on long-term care homes in the province, the provincial and federal leaders of the Green Party teamed up to say that enough is enough. Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner was joined by Federal Green Party leader Annamie Paul and advocate for the elderly Laura Tamblyn Watts to talk about the urgent need for action to protect Ontario’s seniors.
“We know that a humanitarian crisis unfolded throughout the pandemic in our long term care centres, and that thousands and thousands and thousands lives have been lost avoidably in long-term care across this country, many of them here in Ontario,” said Paul. “For those of us who have lost loved ones during this pandemic unnecessarily, for all of those who are still terrified for the care that their loved ones are receiving in long-term care, I say stop.”
Schreiner agreed calling the effects of the pandemic on long-term care a “humanitarian crisis”, and called out Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton for her response to the Auditor General report.
“One of the things that was so profoundly disappointing for me yesterday was the minister’s response to the report, she deflected responsibility and blame to everyone else and didn’t actually accept any responsibility,” Schreiner said. “I think if we’re going to solve this crisis, we need to acknowledge responsibility, and I would argue that every person in Canada, myself included, has to accept responsibility because we collectively, as a society, have failed to make the investments we need to make in eldercare.”
Watts, who’s the President of CEO of CanAge, an advocacy group for the rights and well-being of elderly Canadians, blamed the Provincial government for routinely ignoring the warnings about the disastrous effect of COVID on long-term care.
“It’s important to remember that this government in Ontario deflected the Auditor General earlier in the pandemic and told her to stay in her own lane, so this report really shines a light on the multiple failures that have occurred,” Watts said. “This should not be an issue of politics, this should be an issue of care, of justice ,and of morality.”
The trio offered a list of immediate actions needed to improve conditions in long-term care including a pay increase for personal support workers, an immediate implementation of the four hours of care per day per resident benchmark, expanded vaccine rollout to care workers in homes, and infrastructure improvements to the homes themselves.
“We need to start taking the issue of physical space in long-term care seriously, 257 of our 629 long-term care homes in Ontario do not meet the 1999 standard for care,” Paul said. “We have an opportunity to make more jobs to invest in buildings and to make sure that those built environments, those physical states, are safe and well.”
In edition to the Auditor General’s report, the Government of Ontario will receive the report from its own Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission on Friday. Schreiner said that those findings should be released immediately to the public upon receipt.
“I think that one of the big differences is going to be some of those personal stories, which will resonate with a lot of members of the public, but a lot of the findings will probably be very similar to what you saw in the AG report,” Schreiner said. “We’ve had 25 reports in the last 30 years, and they’ve pretty much outlined most of the problems in long-term care, so what we’ve lacked is the political will to actually address those problems and that’s what I hope the shift is now. We need to have the political will to make the investments, and we need to re-imagine how we care for elders.”
The Green Party of Ontario also announced Thursday that they will be holding six weeks worth of town halls around different subjects starting May 5. Schreiner and a series of special guests will discuss topics like senior car, child care, the economy, and systemic racism. This is the schedule and topics:
*A More Caring Ontario (May 5th, 7pm)
*Restoring Dignity for Seniors (May 14th, 2pm)
*Combating Systemic Racism (May 19th, 7pm)
*In the Community: A Spotlight on Parry Sound–Muskoka (May 26th, 7pm)
*Reimaging Childcare and Education (June 5th, 2pm)
*Building a Stronger Economy Together (June 13th, 1pm)
All those wanting to take part are asked to register in advance on the Green Party of Ontario’s website.
“As we work towards building a greener and more caring Ontario, the Green Party is committed to hearing and understanding the needs of local communities,” said GPO Campaign Chair Becky Smit in a statement. “Our goal with this initiative is to create opportunities for meaningful discussion about people’s concerns and visions, so we can better represent their voices at Queen’s Park.”