Well that was quick.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told the media this morning that she cannot support the Wynne budget, or more specifically, the Wynne government.
Horwath’s remarks suggested it wasn’t so much about the content of yesterday’s budget, but about trust in the present government.
A June 12 provincial election has now been set.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli told the Ottawa Citizen this morning “this budget is our platform for the next 30 days.”
The Liberals wasted no time in going on the attack, revealing their strategy to brand PC Leader Tim Hudak as representing the values of the U.S. Tea Party and accusing Horwath of bringing “zero policy forward.”
Horwath noted that the Wynne government had not delivered on past promises, including fixing home care and establishing a Financial Accountability Office.
Yesterday OPSEU President Warren Smokey Thomas had called upon Horwath to pull the plug on the two-and-a-half year-old minority government, calling the spring budget a “wholesale transfer of wealth from the public to the corporate sector.”
Ontario presently has the lowest program spending among any provincial government in Canada.
“At a time when Canada’s corporations are sitting on $626 billion in cash, it’s ridiculous not to use some of it to fund the services Ontarians need,” Thomas said.
The Ontario Health Coalition gave credit for the budget’s efforts to address the social determinants of health, but were critical of a third year base funding freeze to hospitals.
“Despite the government’s rhetoric, the hospital cuts are not offset by community care funding,” OHC Director Natalie Mehra said in a release yesterday.
The Ontario Hospital Association was uncharacteristically silent on the budget, although earlier this year they had asked for capacity planning targets. Ontario already has among the fewest hospital beds per capita of any developed country with the exception of Mexico and Chile. The OHA may very well want to know what the end state of all this bed cutting will be.
OHA CEO Anthony Dale appeared more preoccupied with an arbitrator’s decision that will give nurses a 1.4 per cent increase for each of the next two years. Dale says that decision will cost Ontario hospitals $60 million.
Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) called $300 million committed to shift hospital services to community settings a “paltry sum” and “will continue to leave Ontarians on the sidelines waiting for timely access to interprofessional primary care in their communities.”
The RNAO also expressed concern about the privatization of hospital infrastructure through the government’s public-private partnership initiatives.
The Association representing registered practical nurses said Ontario’s hospitals are falling behind on their commitment to 70 per cent full-time nurses. The Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario said hospitals were facing unprecedented budgetary constraints that have created a significant drop in the percentage of nurses in full-time roles. They note the full-time employment rate for RPNs dropped 4.1% this past year to 56.8%.
“This trend is having dire consequences for our nurses,” said Dianne Martin, executive director of the RPNAO. “It diminishes the continuity of care and fragments care, which threatens patient outcomes, making it increasingly difficult for nurses to maintain the service levels required to meet their patients’ health care needs.”
While the Ontario Long Term Care Association had been happy with new money to physically upgrade nursing homes in the province, CEO Candace Chartier had expressed disappointment that there was no additional staffing to deal with behavioural supports.
The OLTCA highlighted a recent Nanos Research survey that found that more than 90% of Ontarians are concerned or very concerned about the availability of staffing support for seniors in long-term care and about the physical condition of the homes. More than four in five (82%) responding to the Nanos survey believe the government needs to invest in long-term care now.
Even though the percentage increase was less than last year, the Ontario Home Care Association applauded the government’s recognition of the importance of home care and the decision to increase the minimum wage for Personal Support Workers to $16.50/hour by April 2016. The OHCA noted that PSWs provide 70 per cent of CCAC-funded services.
Watch this space for ongoing analysis of the party platforms on health care.