Editorial – Action and band-aids

Ontario’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many flaws in how the government delivers its services, and shows preferential treatment of one group at the expense of another.

The province’s long-term care home strategy has been broken for decades, well before Mike Harris introduced for-profit operators into the system, especially in rural areas of the province.

Many of the facilities are obsolete and overcrowded; look no further than Dundas Manor. These homes were the hardest hit in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 65 per cent of the 2,811 COVID-19 related deaths in Ontario were in long-term care homes.

To address those issues, the province has taken decisive action and used these five months to develop a long-term plan. This includes pilot projects to create over 1,200 spaces in the Greater Toronto Area.  The government claims those projects will be completed in seven months, rather than years.

Ontario has committed to a five year, $1.75 billion investment, to create spaces to deal with the 38,000 person wait list. The plan addresses the real need for physical space in a system crippled by aging infrastructure and a long time dysfunction.

In comparison, the province’s education plan is not a plan at all. It is a hodgepodge of band-aid solutions to an infrastructure problem in education that has also languished for decades. Many of Ontario’s schools are obsolete, lack proper ventilation and climate control systems, and need retrofitting or replacement.

Unlike long-term care, the five month shutdown has not been used by the Ministry of Education to create a long term plan to deal with the physical needs of schools and to getting kids safely back to class. Instead minister Stephen Lecce has implemented not one, but three different back to school plans for different parts of the province, all with the finesse of swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.

There is no long term plan. The province is doing just enough, hoping that the pandemic will pass, and a second wave will be avoided, or a vaccine will miraculously arrive and everything can return to normal.

Ontario suffers from a broken funding model for school infrastructure. Add into that the burden of operating and maintaining four publicly-funded systems, it’s no wonder that the significant yearly investment needed to create safe spaces for students to learn often falls short.

It is telling of the priority of the Ford government when one issue receives action and a long term solution, and the other gets band-aids.

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