What happened to the priorities of Ontarians?

TheStar.com – opinion/editorialopinion
Published On Tue Sep 13 2011.   By Carol Goar, Editorial Board

It’s as if there are two elections going on in Ontario.

The visible election is a snarlfest between the leaders of the Liberal and Conservative parties that has produced an effusion of inflammatory rhetoric, half-truths and personal attack ads. It has nothing to do with the needs or priorities of most voters. It is orchestrated by party strategists who don’t care whom they smear to win.

The invisible election, which would make Ontarians feel better if they knew about it, is a discussion among concerned citizens about how to fix what’s broken and strengthen what works.

They have developed sensible — and in many cases, affordable — proposals to improve health care, stabilize the economy, mend the social fabric and create hope. They are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Unfortunately, neither the politicians nor the media are paying the slightest attention.

For those who would like a glimpse of the election they’re missing, here are some of the ideas bubbling up in the health profession, the universities, the think-tanks, the private sector and the non-profit agencies. They are the result of evidence gathering, analysis, experience and face-to-face consultations. All are fiscally responsible.

• Open 50 clinics led by nurse practitioners by 2015. This would give thousands of Ontarians who can’t find a family doctor access to basic health care and alleviate the strain on hospital emergency wards. Nurse practitioners are qualified to perform medical checkups, diagnose and treat minor illnesses, monitor chronic diseases and help people stay healthy. This would not require new spending; it could be done by redeploying money from less productive uses such as over-prescribed drugs, unneeded MRI scans, health administrators, gatekeepers and consultants.

• Give businesses in Ontario one clear set of operating rules. They can’t be globally competitive when they operate in fragmented city-regions with a patchwork of different regulations and programs. They can’t be efficient when they have to meet the demands of three levels of government. They can’t plan for the future when they aren’t certain where, or at what cost, the province will get the energy it needs or how it will improve its overtaxed infrastructure.

• Move people with severe disabilities out of provincially subsidized homeless shelters. There is no more expensive form of housing. It would cost taxpayers less to provide them with disability benefits to which they are entitled. The problem is that they can’t fill out the complicated application form, which requires identity documents, financial records and a doctor’s verification. By creating a small team of trained workers to do the paperwork for them, the province could save millions and improve their lives.

• Shore up the non-profit agencies that deliver most of Ontario’s social services. There is no better bargain. They operate more efficiently than private providers. They have a voluntary workforce of five million. They do everything from building low-cost housing to integrating immigrants into Canadian society. Letting them go under would mean shedding the province’s best stabilizer in hard times.

• Keep seniors out of nursing homes. Most want to age at home. Their families are willing to help. But Ontario provides so little home care that this is not a realistic option. It’s cheaper and healthier to care for seniors at home than institutionalize them. Again, there is enough money in the system. It just isn’t being used as effectively as it could.

These proposals — and many others — are being discussed in community forums and at local all-candidates’ debates and online. But at the provincial level, they’re being drowned out by hyperpartisan politicians and slick marketers.

If the two elections converge in the next 22 days, there is a chance voters will go the polls on Oct. 6 with renewed faith in Ontario’s resilience. If not, they’ll cast their ballots in reckless anger or sullen resignation.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1053215–goar-what-happened-to-the-priorities-of-ontarians >

2 Comments

  1. For as long as I can remember, I believed that voting was a waste of time as the outcomes of elections never produced results that would benefit me or the community at large for that matter. My view is that elections provide a fighting ground for politicians to attack each other and win the hearts of voters based on false promises. I fully agree with the article, that they spend so much time fighting against each other making falsified promises about how each can provide better than the next that they ignore those who have come up with systematic plans to fix systems that are of priority to voters. How many times have politicians argued that something needs to be done to fix the health care system or argued that there needs to be better services available for the disabled yet every year nothing has been done to improve these systems?

    Why are the health care organizations constantly ignored by politicians? How difficult would it be to actually listen to these organizations and work with them on improving these systems? It is questions such as these which have led me to believe that the motives of politicians are not based on the priorities of the citizens who vote for them. This then begs the question, why do we continue to vote for those who we know do not have our best interest at heart? It is time to let politicians know that they will be held accountable for promises made as after all, their obligations are to the voters.

    I am tired of hearing politicians attack each other and make promises that are never kept while watching the baby boomers and other populations increase with little to no alternative resources to properly care and improve their quality of lives. Maybe it’s time for hyperpartisan politicians and slick marketers to no longer have control over issues so acutely important to the community.

  2. Like most citizens, election time brings to mind dueling party leaders attacking each other’s policy platforms and characters while spewing promises they never seem to keep. We’ve been groomed to expect this behavior – it’s how the business of politics is done as of late. And as Goar aptly noted, their rhetoric has little to do with the actual needs of the voters.

    As a political layperson I have always assumed things such as affordable fixes to our economy or healthcare system could not be done (much like a riddle) and some group somewhere would have to lose something as a result. Party victories were won and lost by the quality of the winner’s ideas and plans that followed. There had to be a good reason these same issues always came up. That was until I read this article and wondered why more hadn’t been done to listen to suggestions made by the knowledgeable and experienced non-political groups outlined by Goar?

    As I read these proposals I was first struck by the straightforwardness of it all. Secondly, the fact that I had not heard about these feasible plans left me feeling somewhat deceived by those entrusted to care for our needs as Ontarians. I wondered why it was not being shouted from the rooftops by political watchdogs or why the media had not announced, discussed and analyzed these proposals yet. But most importantly, why didn’t our political leaders ever talk about these plans?

    I agree with Goar that any steps towards such things as an improved healthcare and delivery system as well as ways to stabilize our infrastructure foster a sense of hope not helplessness. Communities have first hand knowledge about what they need in order to strengthen their broken systems so we must find a way to cut through all the white noise and get back to what really matters. As Goar points out people are ready to work hard with plan in hand as long as their voices are not being drowned out by political theatrics.

    Regardless of these strategies, the issues we need to repair are complex to say the least. We need our provincial government’s fullest attention now more than ever if we are to exact positive change. We as citizens should demand these and many other proposals are put into use by party leaders for the good of the communities they serve. Political front runners beware. Our recent history has shown the power of grass roots movements when disillusioned but united individuals are ready to be heard.

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