Jim McDonell: This week at Queen’s Park

TORONTO – My colleagues and I challenged the government this week on its mismanagement of Long Term Care in Ontario.  Recent reports highlight a lack of transparency and an extreme shortage of LTC beds that forces hospitals to retain alternative-level-of-care patients because there is no place to send them.  This practice occupies over 20% of our more-expensive acute hospital beds, causing back-ups in emergency and the cancellation of surgeries.

During Question Period on Tuesday, we brought forward clear concerns and real-life examples of Ontarians being failed by a long-term care system that is unable to meet current demand, let alone face the pressure of a senior population projected to double over the next decade. The new Minister of Health and Long Term Care could not rationalize how her government had not constructed any net new LTC beds over the past fifteen years.  The health system that our seniors built through decades of hard work and paying taxes is clearly not there when they need it. Wait lists for Long Term Care beds are too long, home care services are being cut, and Personal Support Workers are overworked and unable to deliver the care they know their patients deserve. Our Opposition Day Motion that demanded a commitment to building 15,000 new LTC beds in Ontario was voted down by the Government on Tuesday.

In the meantime, concerns continue to swirl around personal support workers. Over the course of just a few brief months, a former President of the Liberal Party was appointed to a senior position in SEIU, and the government allocated a contract to the Services Employees International Union (SEIU), who control a portion of the PSW profession, for a PSW registry without utilizing a competitive bid process. The SEIU bankrolled a massive attack ad campaign against the then-Leader of the Official Opposition. This string of events does not pass the smell test. PSW’s, who were not consulted on the registry deal, are demanding transparency as their personal data is now being handed over to a union that many don’t belong to. The public deserves answers regarding this unaccountable allocation of taxpayer’s money.

In the House, the Government realized that their arguments justifying their new trade retaliation Bill against the United States held no water, and stakeholders and independent economists were set to expose the Bill for the empty shell it was. To prevent such an embarrassment, they used their house majority to end debate on Bill 194, the Fairness in Procurement Act and force it to go straight to Third Reading without any stakeholder input or review at Committee.  There will now be only 10 minutes’ worth of debate per Party at Third Reading.

We also learned this week of the passing of a great community advocate, Noble Villeneuve, who represented parts of our riding for many years and remained a staunch champion for agricultural and rural issues for decades. We will sorely miss his insight, wisdom, and integrity as he was a role model for how elected officials should serve their communities and the Province they are called upon to steward. Noble was a dedicated family man, and our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Elaine and family.

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