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NDP Leader Horwath pushes for major labour reforms

This morning at Queen’s Park, Ontario New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath announced a comprehensive package of amendments to the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act, aiming to improve working conditions across the province.

“In Ontario today, work is less stable. Jobs don’t last a lifetime like they used to. And so many workers don’t have even basic workplace benefits; it’s time to do something about it,” said Horwath. “For a decade and a half, Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals turned their backs on everyday families, refusing to update workplace laws. Now, Kathleen Wynne’s new labour bill falls far short of what’s really needed. Clearly, she doesn’t get what workers are dealing with every day.”

Horwath’s announcement follows the introduction of the Liberal’s own labour legislation, which Horwath said “falls far short of what is needed.” 

The NDP amendment package builds on Horwath’s universal pharmacare plan announced earlier in the year, which would give all Ontarians prescription drug coverage - regardless of their job status, age or income. The new amendments include a number of measures to improve workplace conditions, wages, and benefits, and will make it easier for workers to join a union.

Highlights include:

  • Five paid sick or emergency days for all workers
  • Three weeks paid vacation after the first year of employment, up from the current two
  • Ending exemptions that allow some worker categories to be paid less than minimum wage
  • Making it harder for employers to label long-time workers “contractors” instead of employees

“A fair day’s work should come with fair pay and benefits. Workers should have a sense of security at their jobs and working people should be able to get ahead of the bills and join the middle class. These are the kinds of values that Ontarians share,” said Horwath. “And this is who we are as New Democrats. We know who we stand with – before and after an election. New Democrats stand with working people.”


The care our parents deserve: Horwath calls for full seniors care inquiry

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced Wednesday her plans for a complete public inquiry into the state of seniors long-term care in Ontario – not only into the circumstances that led to eight residents in care homes being killed; but an investigation into staffing levels, funding and safety conditions in care homes today.

“Our parents and grandparents deserve care that protects their safety, health and their dignity,” said Horwath. “But more and more, I’m hearing reports of residents left in bed for 18 hours, seniors who don’t always get the basic help they need to bathe and change their clothes regularly, and parents and grandparents who led dignified lives, and now aren’t always getting the help they need to get to the bathroom on time.

“Workers in care homes are doing the best they can – but they’re run off their feet and aren’t getting the support they need. It’s time to get to the bottom of these problems, then do something about it.”

Horwath laid out parameters for a two-phase public inquiry held under the Public Inquiries Act. She said if Kathleen Wynne fails to do the right thing and investigate the broader, systemic problems in long-term care, a New Democrat government would expand the inquiry immediately after the election.

“The last Conservative government made deep cuts to health care and front-line health care staff, and Kathleen Wynne did even more damage with cuts and underfunding,” said Horwath. “Together, they’ve swept problems under the rug and refused to talk about it.

“Ontarians know there is a crisis in long term care.  In safety, quality and availability that calls for a much broader inquiry than the one the government is proposing.  The government should not be afraid of a broader, fuller inquiry. We need an honest picture of the problems in seniors care homes throughout the province so we can take action to give our parents and grandparents the care they deserve.”

Horwath was joined at Queen’s Park Wednesday by families with loved ones in care, who echoed her call for a broad inquiry, and action. Donna Corewyn said that her mom returned to her care home from the hospital with a broken pelvis after a fall – only to be left in an upright recliner at the nurse’s station because the home did not have enough resources or staff to keep her safe in her room. 

Mira Bazzul said that she recently arrived at her mom’s seniors care home in Sudbury only to find that mom had been left in bed for 17 hours – and obviously hadn’t been assisted in getting up and with the morning routine hygiene, was not dressed and was left with a soiled brief, not fed breakfast, uncomfortable and at risk of infection.

"An independent public inquiry with a broad mandate is required to determine what went wrong in the Wettlaufer case and how to improve care for all residents. We see the problems in long-term care as a growing crisis that must be addressed now," said Jane Meadus, lawyer and institutional advocate with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE).

"More and more, we're hearing about vulnerable residents not receiving the care they need, overburdened staff and increased complaints about the quality of care in long-term care homes. Residents are uniquely dependent on long-term care homes and their staff for all their needs and we must ensure that the system is providing safe, quality care to all residents. 

"An inquiry into the Wettlaufer murders is necessary - and so is a broader inquiry into the care that residents receive across Ontario,” said Meadus.

The Wynne government put a new Long-Term Care Homes Act into effect in 2010. It doesn’t have any requirement at all for a minimum front-line-staff-to-resident ratio at long-term care homes.


Horwath: Liberal, Conservative healthcare cuts hurt Brant families

Brantford General Hospital operating above safe capacity, as high as 136 per cent, for 23 months straight

Today Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath released shocking internal government statistics that show Brantford General Hospital has been forced to operate its acute care beds at up to 136 per cent capacity for 23 consecutive months.

“Acute care, mental health and even overflow beds are over capacity at this hospital and many others across the province,” said Horwath who was joined by concerned community members to shine a light on the problem in Brant on Thursday. “This is the result of years and years of Conservative and Liberal government cuts to health care. Frontline health care staff are being asked to do more with less, and patients are paying the price.” 

Documents obtained by the NDP under freedom on information laws show that between January 2015 and November 2016, Brantford General Hospital’s acute care and mental health beds were operating at above safe capacity every day, reaching at times as high as 136 per cent. Experts and the province deem 85 per cent capacity to be the maximum safe capacity limit.

Across the province, nearly 60 per cent of medicine wards at large community hospitals are reporting occupancy rates over the safe standard. 

The last Conservative government fired 6,000 nurses, closed 28 hospitals and slashed over 7,000 hospital beds. Wynne’s Liberals have done even more damage, shortchanging hospitals by at least $300 million this year alone. 

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Horwath. “We have to stop the cuts. We have to invest in care. We need a government that’s actually on the side of patients and health care workers, instead of one that just says they are.”

The NDP has committed to providing predictable base funding for hospitals that will keep up with inflation and population growth. Horwath has called for a moratorium on any more nurse layoffs and, just recently, she introduced her party’s plan to create the first universal Pharmacare program, stating her belief that no one should have to empty their wallet just to get the medicine they need. Providing drug coverage for everyone – regardless of age, income or health history – can play a role in relieving stress on hospitals.