Around 3,000 members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association across the province walked off the job last week after rejecting contract offers from CCACs across the province. The ONA tried to negotiate separate contracts with 10 different CCACs, but nine regions are now on strike: North East, North West, Central East, Central, North Simcoe Muskoka, Waterloo Wellington, South East, South West and Erie St. Clair.
McGarry was a care co-ordinator with the Waterloo Wellington CCAC until she was elected to office last June.
"But for being elected, I would’ve been on the picket line with them most likely. These are colleagues and these are friends," she said in a telephone interview with CBC News.
The Liberal government has made it clear that they will not be intervening in labour negotiations, despite the fact that the Waterloo Wellington CCAC has been without a contract since March 31.
Government not involved
"The government has no role at this point with their negotiations and we’re hoping they come to a speedy resolution. But again these are work colleagues and friends of mine and I felt that I wanted to be out there, just to show that I was out there and care about what they do," said McGarry.
CCACs receive government funding through Local Health Integration Networks and operate at arm's length from the province.
Community Care Access Centres are a point of access for individuals seeking home care or long-term care. Care co-ordinators are employed by the CCACs to connect clients with the services they need, everything from weekly visits with a registered nurse to a room in a long-term-care home.
"They’re not out there picketing against the government. They’re out there picketing their employer, which is the Community Care Access Centre, so it’s not one and the same thing," said McGarry.
The drinks were paid out of McGarry’s pocket. She also visited picketers from the North East CCAC in Sudbury on Monday while she was there on a separate matter.
Despite her visits to the picket line, McGarry said the Liberals are making the right decision by not getting involved.
"Not only am I an MPP, I’m still a registered nurse and I’m a community member so I do tend to go out, as I always have done, to all kinds of community events. Sometimes people think I’m there with my MPP hat on, other times I maybe there as my community or my mom hat on. But I do know my colleagues from CCAC were very happy to see me there today. I think they’re looking for support," said McGarry.
Heather Roberts, president of the bargaining unit for the ONA Region 4, said members were "happy" to see McGarry Wednesday morning, though the union feels it’s high time the province stepped in.
"The Liberal party has been very clear that the party line is that they’re not going to step in to resolve our labour disruption. We believe that they can and should be doing that. But Kathryn stuck with her party line," said Roberts.
Both the local ONA and Waterloo Wellington CCAC said no movement has been made to return to the bargaining table.
Dale Clement, chief executive officer of the Waterloo Wellington CCAC, had no comment in regards to McGarry’s visit to workers.