Assessment of Ontario Liberal Party’s Platform on Home and Community Care Services
May 11, 2022
Prior to finalizing this assessment, the Liberal Party formally responded to a letter with questions that Care Watch sent to all party leaders. Our assessment relies on the Party’s letter of response and public statements issued by the party and its leader, Stephen Del Duca. A list of sources is included at the end of the assessment.
Overall, like the New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives, the Liberal Party has made several significant commitments to improve home and community care services with a view to securing the votes of older adults. The party states that:
“Our vision for senior care is rooted in communities where seniors are valued, respected and their choices regarding where, how, and with whom they wish to live are honoured. As a society, we must move away from institutional care that is too often one of the first and only options considered.”
Investment in Home and Community Care Services
The Liberal Party proposes to “champion home care and help seniors stay safely in their homes.” They also propose to “empower seniors to live independently” and to make it easier to age at home by “guaranteeing home care.” More importantly, they commit to “rebalancing … investments in senior care,” changing the approach to the care of older adults by “putting home care first,” and giving older Ontarians the professional assistance and support they need to stay in their own homes.
Care Watch believes that putting home care as the first consideration in providing services would represent a significant system change.
To implement this policy approach, the Liberal Party proposes the following investments:
- Boost home care funding by over $2 billion by 2026 through annual 10% increases, with a focus on front-line non-profit care
- Guarantee that 400,000 more older Ontarians will get home care by 2026
- Create 30,000 new community care spaces by 2028
- Build 15,000 assisted living homes – including small, accessible, and community-based residential services – as well as “hub and spoke” care that provides a comprehensive continuum of care
- Create a dementia care network
Care Watch has long advocated that home care be the first option for older adults who need additional assistance to live independently and age safely at home. We therefore view these commitments as generally positive. An annual 10% funding increase for home and community care services will facilitate sector sustainability and expansion of needed services.
However, Care Watch is disappointed that the Party has not addressed system deficiencies arising from the current lack of province-wide standards for home and community care, comprehensive performance metrics for services, or provider accountability.
Care for older adults is skilled work that requires ongoing skills development, appropriate compensation, and adequate supports. The conditions of work are the conditions of care.
The quality and range of services older adults receive depend on the availability of qualified people to provide them. There aren’t enough personal support workers, particularly in the community, and workers in home and community care are the lowest paid in our health care system. Many find the low pay and poor working conditions too much to handle, so they leave for jobs that pay better.
To redress the situation, the Liberal Party proposes to:
- Repeal legislation that caps wages – Bill 124 (which capped public sector wages) and Bill 106 (which gutted the Pay Equity Act)
- Raise wages, specifically giving $25/hour raises to personal support workers, increase hiring, and make sure workers are valued and supported
- Close the gaps and increase wages for health workers across home and community care, long-term care, and hospitals; deliver fair and consistent pay across home and community care, long-term care, and hospitals; and deliver fair wages for all personal support workers, registered practical nurses, and registered nurses
- Provide top-ups for short-staffed shift work
Furthermore, to give women “equal pay and equal opportunity,” the Liberal Party proposes to replace the minimum wage with a regional living hourly wage starting at $16; provide Ontario workers with portable drug, dental, and mental health services; ban underpaid gig and contract work; and provide 10 paid sick days for all Ontario workers.
Care Watch advocates for a living wage for all workers, especially those who work in home and community services, along with providing contract and gig workers access to health benefits and giving them 10 paid sick days. Repealing Bills 124 and 106 will improve compensation and working conditions for personal support workers. Amendments to the employment standards legislation would also improve the success of workforce improvement strategies.
Care Watch supports the proposal to raise personal support workers’ wages and believes that $25/hour along with improved working conditions would go a long way to improving the pool of qualified workers. However, we are disappointed that the Party has provided no information on strategies to recruit, train, and retain workers, especially in home and community services. Readers may assume that the proposed 10% annual increase to home and community care funding will be sufficient to cover the increased cost of higher wages and employment benefits, as well as catch-up and expansion for home and community care services.