Sir: Monte McNaughton, the MPP for Lambton Kent Middlesex and new Minister of Labour, has written to local papers about his support, and his achievements regarding local health care. He announced a half million dollars for architectural work needed at Wallaceburg and Chatham campuses, and the then Minister of Infrastructure declared it “was my proudest day in politics.”
This money was used for planning the changes needed at both campuses, through architectural drawings. Announcing the money for the planning grant, the Minister pointed to the “increase” in funding for Ontario’s hospitals.
Mr. McNaughton reviewed his support for the Sydenham District Hospital. He was in fact a part in the local campaign to save the hospital, as were the citizens of Wallaceburg, SOS, the Wallaceburg-Walpole Island Health Coalition and the Ontario Health Coalition.
“Access to local health care is essential to the people of Ontario. People shouldn’t have to travel far to receive the care that they require and deserve.” I wish that Mr. McNaughton had stated that the health care he was describing would be public, and not private or for profit.
Mr. McNaughton states the Conservative government is not cutting healthcare. He asserts the Conservatives are ending hallway medicine: this will be done by adding 15,000 new long-term-care beds, 1,100 additional hospital beds and committing to upgrades to 128 hospitals.
He states that the new Ontario Health Teams will put the patient experience first.
These are the facts: the two-per-cent heath-care funding hike is less than the rate of inflation, and most hospitals continue their downsizing, and layoffs. There is a staffing crisis in the LTC sector, so building beds that cannot be staffed will not alleviate hallway medicine.
The minister was invited to a roundtable discussion about the staffing crisis in LTC, sponsored by the CKHC and the OHC, last winter but did not attend, nor send a representative.
The 1,100 new hospital beds have yet to be permanently opened. Thousands of beds across the province lie empty due to 30 years of austerity by other governments. Doug Ford has not re-opened them permanently.
The new Ontario Health Teams contain private for-profit companies, creating entities, more like conglomerates, than teams.
A reshuffling of the provincial cabinet has now landed Mr. McNaughton in a new ministry, labour. Mr. McNaughton’s background is business. He once commented that the U.S. “right-to-work” legislation would be a good model for Ontario. This legislation lets workers decide whether they wish to be part of a union or not, and many see it as a way to get rid of unions.
Perhaps unions would not be necessary if employers believed in treating workers fairly, and believed in a good profit not an obscene profit, made on the backs of the worker.
Unions say right-to-work legislature would increase income disparity by undermining union strength and rights to collective bargaining, while union strength leads to improved wages and benefits for employees.
Income disparity is one of the social determinants of health.
Premier Doug Ford’s and Minister McNaughton’s “Government for the People” pledges to put people at the centre of everything, yet the Ford government is pro privatization and pro for-profit business.
Access to public healthcare is one of the pinnacles of the Canada Health Act. There should be no profit made from people being sick, and there should be no government that supports for profit health services.
Mr. McNaughton is a pleasant young man. But he stands shoulder to shoulder with Doug Ford, and the stated policies of the Conservative government are not in any way advantageous to the people of Ontario. We have the duty to fight back against Ford’s and McNaughton’s plans: we must fight to protect public healthcare, public education, library services and so many more public programs that Ontarians depend upon.
Three years can pass quickly, and I do hope that our elected officials find the courage to make an abrupt 180-degree turn, and truly start to serve the people.