Tag Archives: PC platform

Confused and inconsistent PC position on health generates a big “huh?”

The Ontario Tories may want to look further than Tim Hudak for reasons behind their by-election losses over the summer. True, the PC leader consistently ranks behind the other two major party leaders in leadership polls, but give the voters credit for recognizing some glaring nonsense in the recent party platform.

Remarkably, over the summer the Tories decided that they would blame hospital cuts on the fact that the Liberals were overspending on health care. Yes — overspending.

Yet the PCs actually say they plan to spend even more than what the Liberals are projecting in their budget forecasts for health.

Oddly, last month PC Health Critic Christine Elliott told the Ottawa Citizen that spending increases on health care should be closer to three per cent annually. That’s much more than the Liberals have been projecting, not less.

Confused? You should be.

The Tories further risk credibility when they continually speak about six and seven per cent increases in funding when Ontario hospitals are going into their second year of a base funding freeze and overall health care funding increases have been limited to about 2 per cent.

That’s far from being frank with voters.

It’s true in the days when the Liberals were actually running consistent balanced budgets that health care spending was running in the six per cent range. But as Elliott and Hudak should have noticed, things have changed.

Even more lame is their threadbare argument that somehow all the funding woes could be solved by simply dissolving the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). The cost of maintaining all 14 LHINs is somewhere between $60-70 million per year. That’s about 0.2 per cent of the provincial health budget.

Yet the Tories also want to appoint dozens of regional hospitals as new administrative hubs that will replace the LHINs. Do they really think these hospitals can do regional planning, community consultation and enforce accountability without additional cost?

The Tories would like us to conveniently forget that they also said at one time they would implement all of Don Drummond’s recommendations, which included enhancing the LHINs, not giving them the boot.

For Ontario resident who can remember the Harris government, they may have been gob smacked by the recent interest the Hudak Tories have shown regarding staff cuts at The Ottawa Hospital (no doubt linked to polls in the Ottawa by-election). Hudak can talk about saving jobs, but he was part of the Harris government that closed 28 hospitals and axed 6,000 nursing jobs digging out of the previous recession in the 1990s.

Before painting the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals as big spenders when it comes to health, the Tories may want to look at what’s happening in the rest of the world. Among OECD nations, Canada has done far better than most at restraining health care costs over the last decade — often at a cost to quality. Within the Canadian federation, Ontario remains among the stingiest when it comes to per capita health spending.

When the Tories misrepresent the situation to voters and flip-flop on their promises, they also raise key questions of trust.

The McGuinty/Wynne government certainly has many weaknesses when it comes to the health file. Spending too much is not one of them.

Can Ontarian’s afford more PC long-term care?

The Progressive Conservatives (PC) under Tim Hudak say they will add an additional 5,000 long-term care beds on top of the 35,000 that are already coming on stream. There is no reason to suggest that Hudak will handle this any different than his predecessor Premier Mike Harris did.

Historically, the relationship between the Conservatives and the long-term care corporations has been very tight.

In 1998, when the government announced a $1 billion would be spent to create 20,000 new long-term care beds in Ontario, the PC’s received large campaign contributions from the top three private for-profit long term care corporations operating in Ontario: Extendicare, Liesureworld, and Central Park Lodges Real Estate Income Trust (CPL REIT)

In 2001 when the tenders were announced, two thirds of the new beds were awarded to for-profit operators. Extendicare, Leisureworld, and CPL REIT received 39.5 per cent of the contracts.

Upon the completion of construction, all the sites received the provincial per diem funding for all beds in operation just like the other facility operators but also continue to receive an additional subsidy of up to $10.35 per bed per day, payable for the next 20 years to offset the cost of borrowing and construction. That is $75,550.00 per bed over 20 years.

This was an unprecedented subsidy of the construction costs for the private sector. After 20 years the facility operators will own the new building with no further obligation to the taxpayers.

In 2001 the private for-profit nursing homes began to operate the majority of LTC home beds in Ontario.

In 2003, Chartwell Real Estate Income Trust (REIT) was formed by consolidating three other private long-term care home operations and according to its trust document was established for the purpose of investing in a portfolio of income-producing seniors facilities. It has grown into one of the largest private long-term care providers in Ontario.

According to information obtained by the Ontario Health Coalition in 2008 through a Freedom of Information request, the lowest level of care is provided in the for-profit nursing homes compared to the not-for profit and municipal facilities.

The latest available data shows Ontario pays 36 per cent more in accommodation rates for long-term care than other provinces.

Most of the large private for-profit operators are structured as a Real Estate Income Trust (REIT) so they don’t pay any corporate taxes.

There is a critical need for long term care beds in Ontario. To get the most efficiency for public funding,  Ontario needs to invest in not-for profit and public long term care beds.

PC Platform: Tim Hudak wants you to compete for the job you have

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.