A week before the Ontario election began, Statistics Canada reported that one in five Canadians are nearing retirement and that there are now more of us aged 45 to 64 than there are Canadians aged 15 to 24.
On May 4, the very day the election writs were dropped, a Nanos Research poll reported Ontario voters placed health as their most their most important concern by a wide margin. Yet so far, neither health nor older adult care has been marquee issues in the campaign platforms of two of the three major political parties. And unless that changes, Ontario voters will be left wondering if this election was a wasted opportunity.
We are now in the third year of a pandemic, and 65 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Ontario were in long-term care institutions. Statistics Canada is warning of a coming crisis for older adult care. It’s not unreasonable for Ontarians to expect more attention and concrete plans for health and older adult care from the parties aiming to lead this province for the next four years.
To date in the campaign, the Ontario PC Party are all about election goodies and building highways; the Liberals are promising a buck-a-ride public transit and rebuilding schools. In their not-yet-passed April budget, the Conservatives dangled $1 billion for homecare – an amount virtually equal to what it will cost for “free” yearly auto licence renewals. The NDP have promised free or low-cost dental care for low and middle-income Ontarians, provincial standards of care for long-term care, and have made health and seniors care major offerings in their platforms, but without costing or necessary details. The Liberals, like the NDP, want to eliminate for-profit long-term care.
Ontario voters have a serious choice to make. The National Association of Federal Retirees is calling on all parties to ensure older adults can access safe, high-quality health care when and where they need it the most. Together, our 60,000 members in Ontario and their loved ones are making sure all candidates — and Ontario’s next government — understand that Ontario needs a plan for older adult care now: one that fixes the cracks we’ve seen worsen during the pandemic, addresses the pandemic’s consequences, and leads to a healthier future for aging in Ontario. Parties and their leaders must give health and older adult care the attention voters deserve, and soon.
There was a time, not too long ago, when long-term care residents in Ontario were entitled to at least four hours of care a day from personal care workers, nurses, or doctors. That standard of care was a casualty of the Mike Harris Conservative years. The Ford government has promised to bring it back in four years. We need it back now.
Ontarians must not forget that in the first wave of this pandemic, conditions in some long-term care institutions were so bad, the military had to be called in. The conditions the military reported were nothing short of horrific – and it was all preventable. Aging Ontarians are more than a strategic demographic. They are people’s parents, grandparents, siblings, and spouses. They’ve built communities and continue to help them thrive. They deserve better. Within eight years, a quarter of our population is expected to be over 65. Ontario will be under new management for half of that time.
With one in five Canadians near retirement, and more older adults than youth in Canada, we are very near another tipping point – one that every voter, no matter their age, should be thinking about.
The question is, will it be more of the same – or will we use the opportunity this provincial election to demand Ontario’s next government commit to a healthier, safer, more dignified way forward for aging in this province? The pandemic was a huge wakeup call. At least it should have been for all of us.
Let’s remember where we’ve been, and where we want to be, when you cast your vote on June 2.
CEO National Association of Federal Retirees.