Submitted by Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden
While most of the recent focus has been on long-term care, the Ford government is quietly introducing legislation that will open up home care to further privatization.
Major health care unions and organizations like the Ontario Health Coalition are sounding the alarm, warning that Bill 175 the “Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act”, will be used to privatize more home care services by weakening oversight and removing legislative protections. I share these concerns.
During the weeks of June 16 and 22nd, as part of my legislative duties, I took part in hearings into Bill 175. These hearings are happening during a pandemic, a context that has important lessons.
With COVID-19, we’ve seen the failure of large for-profit operators competing for decades on wages for care workers, and living conditions for seniors and people with disabilities. They did so in the pursuit of profit for owners, or dividends for shareholders.
Recently we learned that Extendicare — one of the largest for-profit care operators in Ontario — planned to issue a dividend of $10.7 million to shareholders. That’s money lost to non-personal support workers, community care groups, caregivers, seniors, and people with disabilities.
So during committee hearings, I asked Stuart Cottrelle, President of Bayshore HealthCare Limited (a major for-profit home care operator) if he would disclose his firm’s administration costs, notably for executive compensation. I also asked Sue VanderBent, Chief Executive Officer for Home Care Ontario, if she supports standards so community care jobs are good jobs, with full-time hours and benefits. I didn’t hear much by way of a reply.
I noted that most for-profit firms in home care are privately held, and do not disclose financial information to the public despite receiving millions in public subsidies. Meanwhile, as the Ontario Health Coalition notes, personal support workers are paid between $15-$17 per hour (on part-time contracts), while operators bill the public $29-$49 per hour for these services.
Despite that experience, Bill 175 will further embed home care in the hands of for-profit operators at the expense of home care consumers and frontline care workers. We can’t let that happen without a fight.
Along with my colleagues in the Ontario NDP caucus, we put forward a number of amendments that were all rejected by PC MPPs. These amendments included an end to user fees, banning further privatization and requiring private operators who receive public money to disclose what they spend on administration, including executive pay.
We deserve better than this. Together, let’s keep up the pressure to ensure home care and community care are properly-funded, well-regulated, and no longer a source of profits for a select few.