TORONTO — Is it that time already?
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath outlined the first plank of her 2022 election campaign Friday. She promises to invest $3 billion more in long-term care and home care, and get private companies out of the system altogether.
“I’m running for premier in 2022 because people deserve better and I believe we can do better,” Horwath said at an event broadcast on Facebook.
“Today, I’m releasing our first major election platform commitment. It’s a plan for better care and better quality of life for elders and more peace of mind for their families.”
She told reporters she was kicking off her campaign early — more than a year and a half before the expected election — because “people deserve hope.”
Earlier: Premier Doug Ford says Ontario’s second wave of COVID-19 has begun. Story continues after video.
Whispers of an early election first emerged in September after Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative party officially nominated 72 sitting MPPs as its candidates. Ford said the party didn’t mean anything by it and that the election would be held as scheduled on June 2, 2022.
Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter then tabled a motion calling on the government to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic rather than hold an early election. It passed unanimously, but is not legally binding.
‘Disaster hiding behind the walls’
Horwath said in a press release that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed “a disaster hiding behind the walls” of long-term care homes.
More than 1,800 residents and eight staff have died with COVID-19 in Ontario homes.
Soldiers who were called in to help with particularly bad outbreaks said they found poor infection control practices, infestations of cockroaches and patients being force-fed until they choked.
The patient ombudsman has also investigated reports that staff with the novel coronavirus were forced to work, patients who had it were not isolated, and personal protective equipment (PPE) was not available.
Cathy Parkes, whose father Paul died after contracting COVID-19 at the Orchard Villa nursing home in Pickering, Ont., joined Horwath for the announcement.
She said the Ontario NDP reached out “quietly and with sincerity” when she needed help.
“Our long-term care homes are broken beyond repair. We can’t allow the building of more facilities with hundreds of beds where our loved ones will be treated as an afterthought, or far worse, as nothing more than a profit.”
Horwath says she’ll remake the sector without “greedy profit-driven corporations.”
Her party says it will:
- Phase out for-profit operators of long-term care homes within eight years,
- Increase spending on long-term care and home care by $3 billion over six years,
- Build smaller facilities that feel more like home,
- Give personal support workers (PSWs) a permanent $5/hour raise over their pre-pandemic pay.
Ford’s government has temporarily boosted wages by $2 or $3/hour and says it’s pouring millions into training new PSWs.