Tim Hudak is no longer the mystery man. The question is, now that his Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) platform is out there, will it matter?
Hudak has made it clear that he intends to make public sector workers a target, including workers in health care.
“We will introduce initiatives requiring public sector unions to compete for government contracts, where appropriate,” the Tory Changebook states. “If another organization – whether a non-profit group or private business – can provide better value for money, taxpayers deserve to benefit.”
The platform goes on to suggest support services “like food preparation or laundry” in our “public institutions” are a prime example where he expects these competitions to take place.
If you are spared the competition, you may not have your next contract fairly arbitrated. Hudak plans to challenge the independence of the arbitrators, claiming recent awards have been “excessive.”
“We will require arbitrators to respect the ability of taxpayers to pay and take into account local circumstances,” the document states.
Changebook claims the Tories will “bring public sector paycheques in line with private sector standards.”
Specific to health care, Changebook makes the same promise as the McGuinty Liberals when it comes to funding – reduce increases to three per cent per year.
Hudak promises a review of all agencies and commissions, but would axe the LHINs before that even takes place. He would not replace the LHINs, which raises questions about how health care planning, local funding, and community engagement will take place. He says he will redirect the $70 million per year from closing the LHINs into front line care. At present Ontario spends $47 billion on public health care.
The Tories say they will add 5,000 new long term care beds and increase investments in home care to “give families more control over services.” That includes the ability to stay with the provider they have now, or pick a new government-funded home care provider who better meets their individual needs. Given the Tories have supported competitive bidding in home care, it is unclear whether an individual will be able to maintain their provider after they have lost the CCAC contract. While the Tories promise to increase investments in home care, they also promise to find savings at the CCACs.
Hudak says he will clamp down on fraud, but the only specific promise is to demand that people using the old red and white health cards also present another form of government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.
Unlike the Federal NDP, which promised more doctors and nurses, the Tories only claim to add to the number of doctors by increasing residency placements for medical students from Ontario who have pursued their education outside Canada. They call upon doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to work collaboratively, particularly in underserviced areas. There is no mention of the other health professions integral to the public health system.
Like the McGuinty Liberals, the Tories vow to be as obsessive about measuring health outcomes and “introducing a rigorous system of patient satisfaction.” Do we read that as even more patient satisfaction forms to fill out? And how does this square with the promise to reduce bureaucracy?
The Tories say they will make it law that the province cannot raise taxes without a clear mandate. Unfortunately, it is silent on needing the same to cut taxes, particularly for corporations.
They also promise to expand the scope of Freedom of Information, but it is not clear how.
The Tories have already come under fire for their spending commitments and tax cuts. The normally conservative Ottawa Citizen called it the “common nonsense revolution,” comparing Hudak’s plans to reckless debt run up by U.S. President George Bush. “Unlike Bush,” writes Citizen editorial board member Ken Gray, “Premier Dalton McGuinty has required Ontarians to pay for the services they receive for which his government has been dubbed ‘tax and spend’ by people who would rather spend, borrow and pay interest.”
“Hudak’s election platform is the kind of document that made Greece the model of fiscal prudence it is today,” writes Gray.