This could be a close election, and every vote is going to count. Keep in mind the issues that matter most to you and to Ontario seniors, the promises from each party, and make sure you make an informed choice. If you’re not sure where to vote, use this tool from Elections Ontario to find your local polling information and consider your plan to vote on June 7th.
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford (photo credit Jared Ong) and New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath.
This Ontario Election, the National Association of Federal Retirees and the Retired Teachers of Ontario (RTO/ERO) have joined forces to launch Vibrant Voices – a campaign to represent the interests and concerns of our members and seniors.
We asked the Liberal Party, the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, how they will address four key issues: age-friendly communities, health care, elder abuse and retirement security.
Read a summary of the party responses and sign up for our emails to get news as the Ontario election campaign unfolds.
As of June 1st, the Progressive Conservative Party has not provided its questionnaire responses (but have promised to send them). The Progressive Conservative Party’s responses will be added here when they are received.
Q: How will you work with Ontario municipalities to ensure communities are developed and evolve with an age-friendly focus?
- The Ontario NDP believes that local communities and planners should determine how their local neighbourhoods grow and change, in response to the needs of new, existing and future residents. The provincial government needs to work with municipalities, applying evidence-based principles that reflect worldwide best practices, to ensure that local and provincial growth and transportation plans serve the public interest over the long term, creating affordable and sustainable “complete communities” that can respond to the needs of households of different sizes and ages and abilities.
- Committed $7 million over three years to the Age-Friendly Community Grant Program, in addition to $1.5 million investment in 2015-17 to support projects with local municipalities and organizations to help plan for more accessible and inclusive communities. Released the 2013 Age-Friendly Community Planning Guide to foster and promote age-friendly communities across the province.
Q: How will you cooperate with other countries, provinces and municipalities who are leading the development of age-friendly communities and bring their successes to Ontario?
- We will work to build age-friendly complete communities and to help seniors stay healthy in their own homes and in their own communities. Andrea Horwath and the NDP will make life easier and more affordable by allowing people over the age of 55 who own their home to defer property taxes until their house is sold. The province will finance the deferral, so municipalities don’t see their tax bases reduced. Evidence from a similar program in British Columbia shows that seniors will maintain substantial equity in their homes, ensuring that they can pass something along to their kids and grandkids.
- We presented the first-ever Ontario Age-Friendly Community Recognition awards to celebrate communities and municipalities leading the province with age-friendly policies, programs and services and committed to increasing the awareness of age-friendly planning principles, share best practices and support communities and municipalities improve on their age-friendly community action plans.
Q: What will your party do to address the shortage in long-term care beds and to ensure stressed long-term care facilities and staff have the resources and training needed to provide dignified, safe care in a timely manner?
- Andrea Horwath will build and fund 15,000 more long-term care beds over the next five years – rising to 40,000 new beds by 2028. Our investment will focus on expanding the not-for-profit and municipal sector, where funding goes to patient care. This will include investment in culturally-appropriate care, offering seniors greater access to care in their primary language, eating food they are familiar with, and engaging in activities they know and love.
- Andrea Horwath and the NDP will also restore a legislated minimum standard of care for every long-term care resident in Ontario, and fund long-term care homes so they can meet it. The standard will require every long-term care home to give each resident a minimum of four hours of hands-on care every day on average.
- Expand the mandate of the public inquiry into long-term care within our first 100 days in government, to find and fix the specific problems that have been stripping seniors of their dignity. We’ll hear directly from families about their experiences, and address solutions concerning the safety of residents and staff; the quality of care; funding levels; staffing levels and practices; regulation, enforcement, and inspections; capacity, availability, and accessibility in every region; the impact of for-profit privatization on care; and the government’s action – and inaction – on past recommendations to improve long-term care.
- Update Ontario’s Long-Term Care Residents’ Bill of Rights to include the right of spouses to not be separated against their will.
- Work with long-term care providers to ensure that all residents of long-term care homes have access to publicly-funded dental services.
- Announced the allocation of 5,000 new long-term care beds across the province by 2022, and have committed to creating more than 30,000 new beds over the next decade. 1,500 of new beds will be culturally appropriate, including those serving francophone and Indigenous populations. Will continue to renovate and rebuild all old long-term care homes by 2025.
- Investing $300 million over three years to increase staffing in long-term care homes as part the goal to increase the provincial average to four hours of daily care per resident by 2020. A $50 million investment, starting in 2018-19 will hire an additional Registered Nurse in every long-term care home in the province. Will ensure that every home in the province has staff with specialized training in behavioural supports for residents with cognitive impairments. Funding will provide an additional 15 million hours of nursing, personal support and therapeutic care for our loved ones living in long-term care and $38 million for training and education for new and existing PSWs will ensure they have the tools they require to support our loved ones.
Q: How will your party improve timely access to comprehensive primary, home and community care and support people to stay healthy at home for as long as possible?
- Andrea Horwath and the NDP will immediately increase home care funding by $300 million. This investment will allow us to eliminate wait lists for personal support services and increase service hours, so health care providers have more time to spend with each person who needs care. We will remove arbitrary caps on home care hours, offer more respite care for family caregivers, and ensure consistent, reliable care throughout Ontario – no matter where you live.
- We will extend public dental coverage to every senior without retiree benefits. Seniors will be able to seek dental care at the provider of their choice, including their local dentist or at a public dental clinic.
- Make life easier and more affordable for seniors by allowing people over the age of 55 who own their home to defer property taxes until their house is sold. The province will finance the deferral, so municipalities don’t see their tax bases reduced.
- Have more than doubled funding for home and community care since 2003. Ongoing funding of more than $3 billion per year provides about 670,000 clients and their families with more access to home and community health care services. Will invest $650 million in home care over the next three years, $230 million this year. Will fund an estimated:
- 2.8 million more hours of personal support, or the equivalent of over 1,400 full-time positions
- 284,000 more nursing visits (the equivalent of 146 nursing positions)
- 58,000 more therapy visits
- improved digital information and communication tools to enhance coordination, scheduling and connections among clients, families and caregivers
- and improved working conditions and contract rates for PSWs, registered practical nurses, registered nurses and therapists.
- There are currently 294 interprofessional primary care teams across the province. Invested in 19 new or expanded family health teams, Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics and community health centres that will recruit nearly 100 new health professionals.
Q: How will your party support and promote the mental health of older adults?
- We will hire 2,200 new mental health care workers, allowing 28,000 more Ontarians to access the services they need every year, including services ranging from psychotherapy to help in navigating complex systems of care.
- We will invest in 30,000 new supportive housing units over the next ten years, building at least 3,000 every year – the number recommended by the Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council.
- We will increase supports for the more than 190,000 Ontarians living with dementia, and for their families and caregivers. An NDP government will continue the $100 million investment in Ontario’s Dementia Strategy over three years.
- We will also improve the coordination of Ontario’s fragmented mental health services by establishing a dedicated Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to lead the effort to build an integrated mental health and addictions system.
- Announced the largest investment in Canadian history in mental health and addictions services –a four-year investment of $2.1 billion to deliver more accessible and better integrated care for people at all stages of life, including older adults. Will provide up to 350,000 more people with mild to moderate anxiety or depression with access to publicly funded structured psychotherapy in settings closer to home and create 2,475 more supportive housing units over four years.
- Making a $10 million additional investment in Behavioural Supports Ontario - total annual investment of $74 million to enhance behavioural supports of residents living in long-term care with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease.
Q: How is your party supporting and encouraging mandated geriatric training for all health care professionals, and what funding and other measures will your party commit?
- We will work with health care professionals and health system partners to ensure that all health care professionals have the training they need to provide exceptional care to patients in hospital, residents in long-term care, and people who receive home and community care. As Ontario’s population ages, we will provide the support that health care professionals and providers need to provide excellent care to every senior.
- Stop the layoffs of nurses and health care professionals in our hospitals. Andrea Horwath will place a moratorium on further layoffs, and work with health sector partners to develop a comprehensive review of staffing needs.
- Restore a legislated minimum standard of care for every long-term care resident in Ontario, and fund long-term care homes so they can meet it. The standard will require every long-term care home to give each resident a minimum of four hours of hands-on care every day on average.
- Working to support the growth of physician house calls and strengthen the healthcare workforce’s ability to provide specialized care in geriatrics by increasing training opportunities for healthcare providers.
- Funding more residency positions for medical school graduates who have completed their undergraduate training at an Ontario medical school and working with medical schools to create more specialized residency spots this upcoming school year, geriatric medicine as a priority speciality.
Q: What will your party do to ensure seniors have access to a coordinated network of supports, including homecare?
- Today, an estimated 4,500 Ontarians are stuck on wait lists for personal support services. Andrea Horwath and the NDP will immediately increase home care funding by $300 million. This investment will allow us to eliminate wait lists for personal support services and increase service hours, so health care providers have more time to spend with each person who needs care. We will remove arbitrary caps on care, offer more respite care for family caregivers, and ensure consistent, reliable care throughout Ontario – no matter where you live.
- Investing $650 million over the next three years to improve home and community care services and deliver more consistent care around the province. Introduced a new framework for home-care assessments and planning based on the level of care needed by an individual, to improve consistency and transparency of available services.
- Committed $34.5 million over three years to expand community dementia programs and investing $102 million over three years to support the expansion of interprofessional care teams - will result in 19 new or expanded teams that will recruit nearly 100 new health professionals such as nurse practitioners, registered nurses, registered practical nurses, social workers, psychologists, chiropractors, physiotherapists and pharmacists to provide direct primary care services to patients.
Q: Caregiving can be a rewarding experience but can also involve financial hardship, stress and mental health challenges. How will your party support unpaid caregivers who play a vital role in Ontario’s health care system?
- New Democrats recognize the incredible work of caregivers, including unpaid family caregivers. We recognize the challenges that caregivers face, and the high rates of stress and burn-out that caregivers are experiencing in Ontario today.
- $300 million investment will ensure that more respite care is available for family caregivers. This means less stress, less worry, and more support for families.
- Budget 2018 includes over 2.8 million more hours of personal support care available, with more caregiver respite, over 284,000 more nursing visits and 58,000 more therapy visits and more non-medical supports with an additional investment for visiting hospice volunteer services.
- Committed more education and training programs for unpaid caregivers including online, group settings and in a variety of languages and introduced new Ontario Caregiver Tax Credit to streamline and extend support for people caring for infirm relatives. Providing $6.5 million in funding to establish the Ontario Caregiver Organization, a resource for caregivers that will make it easier for them to access a range of services and information
Q: How will your party ensure Ontarians understand and report elder abuse? What will your party do to ensure seniors who are abused get support and assistance?
- We believe that no senior in Ontario should ever experience elder abuse or neglect. New Democrats will invest in the health care services that seniors need. And we will work with seniors advocacy organizations and community groups to ensure that seniors are better protected and are never put at risk of elder abuse. Elder abuse is completely unacceptable and no senior should ever have to live in fear. We will work with you to stop it – and to ensure that every senior who has been impacted by elder abuse gets the supports and services that they need to recover and to live well in safety.
- The first province in Canada to introduce a strategy to combat elder abuse. Allocated $4.9 million over three years to increase elder abuse prevention and strengthen service providers and by-standers capacity to intervene and invested nearly $17 million to advance the elder abuse strategy across three main areas: training of front line staff, raising awareness through public education and coordination of community resources. Provided more than $900,000 in annual funding to support Elder Abuse Ontario, through this partnership trained close to 30,000 front-line workers, reached more than 58,500 individuals through public education sessions, and provided support for approximately 50 local elder abuse networks to coordinate community response.
Retirement Income Security
Q: What is your party’s retirement income security plan for seniors now and future generations of seniors?
- New Democrats will seek to expand pension coverage to more Ontarians to try and undo the growing and unsettling trend of more and more Ontarians being left to fend for themselves upon retirement. To start, we will remove barriers to joining jointly sponsored pension plans (JSPP).
- We will lobby the federal government to make meaningful reforms to better protect pensioners during insolvency so that what happened to pensioners at Sears, Nortel and countless others, does not happen again. We will also not shy away from directing the Financial Service Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to take actions that will enhance pension security. Pensions are deferred wages and need to be treated as such.
- An NDP government will bring Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund (PBGF) benefits up to $3,000 per month from $1,500 and index future benefits to inflation. Adjusting for inflation PBGF benefits need to be brought up to $3,000 per month in order to provide the same level of benefits as was intended when the PBGF was first established.
- Also help seniors on fixed incomes by making life more affordable by lowering hydro bills by 30%, allowing older Ontarians to defer property taxes, and providing publicly-funded dental care for seniors.
- Budget 2018 increases the monthly Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund (PBGF) guarantee from $1,000 to $1,500 and have proposed legislation to make the increase to the PBGF retroactive, allowing Sears pensioners to benefit. Both the PCs and NDP voted against Bill 177, which included our increase to the PBGF.
Q: The rate of individuals covered by a defined-benefit pension continues to decline across the province and the country – even though, when properly managed, this pension option is the best way to ensure retirement income security. How will your party support defined-benefit pension plans?
- We believe more Ontarians should have the opportunity to join DB plans. As a start, an NDP government will remove barriers to joining jointly sponsors pension plans (JSPP). We are fully commitment to improving the pension landscape for all Ontarians.
- Introduced changes to increase support of defined pension benefits including changes to the funding framework that will require employers to make contributions if a plan falls below a certain level, increasing transparency by requiring plans to develop funding and governance policies and will ensure beneficiaries receive updated information on the status of their plan
The responses from the parties include many important actions. But there are also a few things missing, and Ontario’s seniors and their families deserve the details.
How the Liberals plan to address hospital capacity issues is missing from their response. Patient care should not be taking place in the hallways of our hospitals. Many of these campaign promises were announced in their 2018 Budget, and they come at a cost. Attached to the 2018 Budget was a projected deficit of $6.7 billion and the expectation that the budget won’t return to balance until 2024-25.
The NDP response repeats certain promises throughout (such as dental coverage, pharmacare, deferring property tax), while others are left vague and lacking in specifics.
While welcomed, both party’s retirement and income security measures just aren’t enough. We know that financially secure seniors continue to contribute to their communities and to the economy, and that they have better health outcomes. Many seniors are living their retirement year independently and actively, but are also struggling to keep up with daily costs of living.
Unfortunately, we don’t know where the Progressive Conservatives stand as they have yet to answer our questions.