We’ve all heard the proverbial saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” What you may not know is that the origin of the quotation is from an obituary written by author and philosopher Elbert Hubbard in 1915 for a dwarf actor by the name of Marshall Pinckney Wilder. The lemonade saying is used to inspire a positive attitude to encourage people to flip a negative circumstance upside down and use it as an opportunity for positive growth or improvement.
If ever we needed to make lemonade from life’s lemons, it is now while we are navigating our way through the COVID-19 pandemic - truly a monumental challenge for any society.
One very obvious example for such opportunity to make lemonade is addressing issues for long-term-care and the welfare of our seniors. Tragic does not even come close to describing the loss of more than 1,840 precious souls as a result of the pandemic in long-term-care facilities. What makes this an even more bitter pill to swallow is that we have learned that operating under Ford’s penny-pinching management policies, not only did Ford underspend his health and long-term care budget by $466 million, but worse, he spent just $218 million in the raging battle against COVID-19 in long-term care homes.
Should we be spending time now on investigating how and why the virus spread out of control? Should we seek to find out who was responsible for the situations that lead to these deaths? Absolutely, yes. But we need a public inquiry and not Ford’s premier’s commission to do this. Families deserve the kind of answers and accountability and permanent change only a public inquiry can offer.
Ontario needs to take action right now to address the things we know are hurting seniors in care. We need to hire thousands of PSWs, make their jobs full time, and pay them better. This initiative must include the creation of a funded PSW recruitment and retention strategy to train, hire and keep good staff in long-term care and home care. We need to have a minimum standard staffing level of four hours of hands-on care per day, per resident. And we need regular, comprehensive inspections.
Many thousands of Ontarians have seen their jobs and paycheques vanish right before their eyes. Families are hurting financially and are worried sick wondering what they can expect in terms of employment in coming days. Days ago, official reports released revealed that while Ontario’s job market is slowly recovering, we are not seeing the full-time jobs being created that we need to mount a strong and inclusive economic recovery. Almost all of the jobs created in July were part-time, with just 5600 full-time roles added. Our economic recovery cannot be based on precarious part-time jobs and gig work that will leave families struggling to pay the bills while they try to pay down household debt that’s soared dramatically during this crisis.
To get more people back into the workforce full-time, parents – mothers in particular - need to know that their kids will be able to safely return to school or child care. The Ford government recently released its operational handbook for child care re-opening during COVID-19. This has parents and child care advocates worried about skyrocketing costs, on top of the safety of children. Instead of helping parents who have to go back to work, the Ford government is making things even worse for them by allowing child care to become even more expensive. Ford is downloading the costs of child care onto struggling parents during COVID-19 because he refuses to provide stabilization funding for child care centres that are struggling to re-open.
It is also long overdue for the Ford government to provide more support for Ontario’s small businesses, including direct rent relief and PPE support to help them reopen safely and rehire staff. The NDP’s Save Main Street plan recognizes that small businesses are the backbone of the province’s economy. Our plan also recognizes the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on racialized communities, and includes a designated emergency fund for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have faced historic barriers to accessing traditional capital, as proposed by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce.
Yes, life has delivered a truckload of lemons for Canadians in the form of this pandemic. Yes, it is bad, but it’s not too late to make lemonade. My NDP colleagues and I are determined to keep our commitment to the people of Ontario to not just oppose as Official Opposition, but also propose new, workable solutions. With the NDP at the helm, Ontarians would see a government doing what it takes to makes classes safe for returning students now by reducing class size, hiring more teachers and ensuring every school has proper ventilation. We would ensure that all expenditures necessary are made in order to improve long-term-care for our loved ones and make sure public health units have what it takes to keep all of us safe now, not throwing money at the problem when the walls come tumbling down and it’s too late.
As a little person, Marshall Pinckney Wilder successfully turned his lemons into lemonade by becoming an actor in his time, although such career goals would not be acceptable by today’s societal standards. While the clock ticks, time is slipping away. But it is still not too late for Doug Ford to lead his government back to the drawing board and invest in what really matters to Ontario families.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at email@example.com or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député