News from the Park

As a rookie MPP when I was cutting my teeth on the many challenges involved in trying to help constituents find their way through bureaucratic webs and mazes, one of the most difficult lessons to learn was that when it comes to politics and bureaucracy, it seems the wheels turn imperceptibly slowly most often. I could not believe how many weeks it would take to receive a response from a ministry to what would seem a relatively straight forward issue. Despite the many calls and emails from my staff and I to remind officials we are waiting for their response, sometimes the timeframe seems unreasonably drawn-out. It’s hard enough for my team and I to understand why this is the case, but constituents find it almost impossible to understand.


Well, the way I see it, it is one thing when a minister or bureaucrat delays in responding to a counterpart official or MPP, but neglecting the concerns, plights and sometimes pains of our constituents is entirely unacceptable. The view from a high-rise office just down the street from Queen’s Park bears no resemblance to the view of the individual who has no means to pay travel expenses associated with medical treatment, can’t afford to pay their hydro bills or has been inured at work and has been denied Workplace Safety Insurance compensation.


One advantage that I have is that I have a front row seat at both levels. I’ve seen the look on the father’s face as he tries to comfort a child who is cold and hungry and I understand the burdens of those working from their bureaucratic perches.


One of the issues that my colleagues and I have been dealing with increasingly are appeals for help from frontline health care and long-term care workers who have been praised as true heroes of our modern society. To be clear, these people are heroes – no question about it. But is seems the Ford Conservatives have problems walking their talk about the incredible sacrifices such workers are making and following through on promises to reward their efforts as promised.


Just this week, Jamie West, MPP for Sudbury asked Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton and Premier Ford why workers in senior care facilities right here in Northern Ontario have been waiting for six months to receive their orders for badly needed N95 masks and PPE equipment to protect them from the COVID-19 virus that many of their patients are suffering from. In the Legislature Jamie West stated, “In Sudbury, the first wave of COVID-19 caused the loss of a life at St Joseph's Continuing Care. Although the Minister of Long-Term Care continues to state that long-term care homes have the PPE they require, Jo-Anne Palkovits, the CEO of St-Joseph Complex Continuing Care Hospital and two long-term care homes, have been trying to replenish their stock of N95 masks since June. Six months have passed and St-Joseph’s is still missing the PPE they need.”


Think about it. We are not talking replacing creaky office chairs or replacing an older computer that can’t process as fast as it used to. We are talking about having access to masks and equipment that will save these workers’ lives. All Ontarians have the right to work in a safe environment. Why are Long-Term Care workers not getting what not only what they are entitled to but actually NEED to stay health and safe?


France Gélinas, MPP for Nicklelbelt and NDP Health Critic also raised an issue on behalf of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA). She said that the ONA wrote to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health stating that Ontario still has not updated public health directives to recognize the aerosol risk that COVID presents, despite the fact that it’s been almost two months since the Centre for Disease Control recognized COVID could spread through aerosol in the air, and one month since Public Health Canada updated their directive.


“From the beginning the Ford government refused to use the precautionary principle; the number one recommendation from SARS. Since then 9,554 health care workers were infected and eight Long-Term Care workers died of COVID-19.” Science has now proven beyond any doubt that the coronavirus transmits through aerosol. This means our frontline health care workers need an N95 respirator or better when caring for suspected or infected people.


“When is this government going to listen to science, listen to public health experts and update their directive on COVID-19 transmission?”


It is also quite ironic that this mask shortage issue exists here in Northern Ontario. Dent-X Canada partnered with FN Procurement Incorporated to establish a new PPE manufacturing plant in Wiikwemkoong on Manitoulin Island which produces the much needed N95 masks has. Another similar operation will soon be opening in Sagamok First Nation in the very near future. Yet the Ford Government can’t supply a long-term care facility that is merely hundreds of kilometers away?


In addition to failing to meet the workplace protective equipment needs of our Frontline heroes, the Ford Government has failed to come good on promises to provide support to supplement the low wages of these dedicated workers. Back when the first wave of the pandemic began, Ontarians, like many Canadians, joined together in recognizing these amazing individuals by holding parades around facilities, lining the streets with placards and ringing bells and banging pots and pans to say thanks. Then, after much prodding and pressure, Doug Ford finally agreed to recognize the workers efforts with a pandemic pay premium. Despite promise after promise the money was coming their way, Ford kept on stalling on fulfilling his promise. But to date no one has seen a dime of this money.


Then in October Mr. Ford announced a temporary wage enhancement, for public sector PSWs. Now, here it is December, and the money still hasn’t flowed from the Ford government to workers.


The Ford government have provided no information on when workers will receive their promised pandemic wage increase. Nobody seems to know anything about when the money for our health care heroes will be coming. Workers are disappointed. Employers are frustrated. After waiting for their promised support people just want to know when these heroic workers can expect this temporary increase.


It’s long past time for Doug Ford to show real leadership and make good on his promises.


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 mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.


Michael Mantha MPP/député

Algoma-Manitoulin