Next Ontario premier must face overlooked issues like home care and environment
TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – Ontario’s election has had a narrow focus on jobs and scandal, but the next premier will face a host of issues that have not been debated publicly.
Jun 09 2014. Editor
For the past six weeks our provincial political leaders have devoted their speeches to a few repetitive themes that include the c-word (corruption), bad math, middle-class pennies and promises of jobs, jobs and more jobs.
Maybe they’re focus group-obsessed politicians, or perhaps they’re just telling voters what we want to hear, but it’s fair to say that whoever inherits the premier’s office will face a lot of problems that have been almost invisible during the campaign.
While not top of mind for everyone, growing concerns about home care, dementia, aboriginal justice and even the environment (the perennial wallflower in tough economic times) are issues that matter, tremendously, to many people.
Dealing with these concerns properly can make a significant difference in the quality of our lives, while saving money and even creating jobs. Now there’s a familiar theme.
The growing pressures on home care, for example, must be urgently addressed.
While Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised a wage boost for the chronically underpaid front-line workers in the field, that’s just a start, albeit a good one.
There are still significant problems with patients who can’t get timely home care, even though they are discharged from hospitals, sicker and quicker. As result, their health deteriorates, ultimately creating even greater expense for the health care system.
The next government must also take charge of prodigious spending by the 14 Community Care Access Centres that oversee home care across the province. As the Star has previously reported, precious home care money is being squandered on soaring CEO salaries, high administration costs and even lobbyists, who tell the agencies how to sell their ideas to Queen’s Park. Surely it’s the sick who should benefit.
Dementia is another under-reported but growing problem that Ontario isn’t prepared for. In six short years, some 250,000 older Ontarians will suffer from the debilitating cognitive disease and the province still has no plan on how it will manage their care.
A dementia strategy is desperately needed, particularly for long-term care homes that give the elderly dangerous anti-psychotic drugs to keep them controlled, since dementia can lead to violence. The health ministry should look at the excellent work of a handful of homes that use slow, gentle care, which dramatically lowers dementia’s unfortunate side effect of aggression.
Aboriginal youth also need attention. As a 2013 report by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci concluded, the provincial justice system is biased against aboriginals, in part because so few are represented on the jury system. At the same time, a Star investigation found that aboriginal and black youth are treated more harshly by the courts, even for similar crimes.
And finally, environmental issues barely got a mention during this campaign.
Whether it’s new recycling rules that could divert waste from landfill — and create thousands of innovative jobs — or protections for important watersheds and endangered species, environmental regulations play a vital role.
For example, Ontario’s industrial, commercial and institutional sectors are so lackadaisical about new waste diversion rules that they divert a mere 13 per cent of their waste from landfill.
Imagine if those diversion numbers got a sharp boost from new rules. That would turn a lot of wasted material into recycled products created by those newly hired workers. It’s a winning idea, yet a Liberal bill proposing those very changes died on the order paper when the election was called.
It’s hard to predict whether any new government will give these issues the time and attention they deserve. But whether she or he wants to do it, at some point the next premier will be forced to confront them.
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