By Mohammed Adam
By Mohammed Adam
Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford appears to be cruising to a second election victory, even if the campaign has lacked a compelling vision for Ontario on the issues that matter.
Up to this month, 13,159 Ontarians — 4,539 of the seniors — had died in the COVID-19 pandemic, but there seems to be no accountability and nothing in the campaign shows we have learned any lesson from the defining issue of the last two years.
It is as if nothing had happened.
Indeed, once Ontarians decided to put COVID-19 behind them and not hold Ford accountable for bungling the response, the election was his to lose.
The state of the parties also played into Ford’s hands.
Soundly rejected by voters in 2018, the Liberal party was going to need more than one election cycle to get back into the good graces of Ontarians and become a serious contender again. And with a new leader who has to build a public profile, the task was even more daunting.
With the NDP, the storyline remains the same: always close, but never over the line. As is often the case, people love what the party stands for. Leader Andrea Horwath personally scores well with voters, until it is time to put her in the premier’s seat; then they seemingly abandon her.
That’s why the party finds itself fighting the Liberals for second place in this election, despite having been the official opposition.
All this puts Ford in a frontrunner position, with no need to take risks.
Consequently, the campaign became a series of big money spending promises and not much else in terms of a compelling vision. At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, COVID-related deaths in for-profit homes made up 78 per cent of the long-term care fatalities.
A study this year by McMaster University researchers and health experts on COVID mortality among long-term care residents noted that “for-profit homes have lower levels of staffing, more complaints from residents and family, more acute-care hospital admissions and higher mortality rates.”
But the agony of the pandemic and its searing impact on seniors hardly became a top election issue. The need for reform is obvious, but you’d never know it from either government action or this campaign.
Despite the trauma in long-term care homes, not a single for-profit company has been held accountable for the negligence that has led to so many deaths. Not a single home has had its licence withdrawn or suspended. It has been business as usual.
To add insult to injury, the PC government has given even more money to for-profit firms, including those culpable in the deaths, to build new homes. Worse still, there’s been no serious, well-considered plan from the parties to ensure the tragedy that befell long-term care homes never happens again.
The parties have tinkered at the edges with small ideas, but none has come out with an overarching plan to strengthen public health and be ready for the next pandemic. The PCs have opted for opening more homes, which essentially is more of the same.
The NDP says it would eliminate the profit motive from long-term care, but it is the Liberals who have come closest to the paradigm shift that Ontario urgently needs: making home care the heart of elderly care.
The fact is most seniors want to spend their twilight years at home, so home care is where the focus should be.
In this election, we should have been debating the impact of COVID-19, what we could do for seniors and how we spend health-care dollars. Ontario spends 42 cents of every dollar on health care, yet we can’t seem to get it right.
Doctors are complaining of lack of resources, nurses are suffering burnout and leaving the profession. The Ontario Medical Association has called for urgent action on 20 million backlogged cases, including surgeries.
In this campaign, we should have been having a serious debate on what we are doing wrong, but sadly we are not.
Government failed seniors during the pandemic and nothing in this election campaign shows we are going to do better.
Mohammed Adam is an Ottawa journalist and commentator.