By Zaid Noorsumar
The Ontario PC government of Premier Doug Ford has rejected the Official Opposition’s call to remove profits from the province’s home care sector.
During the standing committee meetings for Bill 175 on Monday and Tuesday, the government struck down all of the amendments proposed by the opposition parties. The NDP proposed 19 amendments to the legislation, including:
- Removal of profits from home care
- Disclosure of annual financial statements and executive compensation by home and community care providers
- Public meetings of Ontario Health (Ford’s new healthcare ‘Super Agency’ meets in secret)
- Inclusion of Bill of Rights in the legislation (as opposed to in Regulations which can be changed by the cabinet at any point)
- Recognition of the role of Indigenous communities in planning, designing and evaluating services in their communities
For-profits evade call for accountability
For-profit agencies deliver most of the publicly-funded home care in Ontario. As Rankandfile.ca has previously reported, this public money is diverted away from direct care by the profit-taking, administrative costs, and executive compensation of each agency (including non-profits).
Last week in the public hearings on Bill 175, Opposition MPP Joel Harden (NDP) asked the lobby association that mainly represents for-profit providers if they would agree to mandatory disclosure of executive pay and administrative costs.
“It was evasive,” said Harden of the response from Home Care Ontario CEO Sue VanderBent while speaking to Rankandfile.ca.
“I think if anybody takes public funding, all of what you get (and how it’s spent) needs to be disclosed to the public. There should be no debate about that. And this industry unfortunately has not been well-regulated for a long time.”
As we have previously reported, this legislation is beneficial to the for-profit providers at the expense of workers, families and caregivers. Home Care Ontario did not respond to Rankandfile.ca’s request for comment.
Links between government and industry
Based on records available through the Ontario Lobbyist Registry, Home Care Ontario’s current lobbyists include Amy Boddington and Andrew Boddington, both of whom have ties to either provincial or federal conservative parties.
Andrew Boddington was the executive director of the Ontario PC Party from 2012-2014 and Amy Boddington worked as a policy advisor in the Stephen Harper government.
Meanwhile, Shelly Jamieson is on the board of Ontario Health, the ‘Super Agency’ now running health care in the province. Jamieson was previously an executive at Extendicare, the for-profit long-term care and retirement home corporation that also owns the home care firm ParaMed.
Jamieson also served as the head of Ontario’s public service under the Liberals from 2007-2011 and a volunteer member of the Health Services Restructuring Commission under the Mike Harris government which ultimately closed 11 hospitals and 3,700 hospital beds.
Based on records obtained from Elections Ontario and the National Post’s political donations database, the private home care lobby donated $236,928 to political parties from 2010-2016. Since then, corporate donations have been banned.
Home Care Ontario alone donated $134,520 of which $78,294 went to the Liberal party, $54,525 to the Progressive Conservatives and $1,701 to the NDP.
“Well-heeled lobbyists” have the government’s ear
Natalie Mehra, the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, says that “well-heeled lobbyists” have an oversized influence on government policy compared to families and advocacy groups.
The Health Coalition represents about half a million Ontarians through 400 member organizations including unions, seniors’ groups and patients’ organizations. However, Mehra says that government officials won’t meet with them.
“There’s no Minister of Health that should be refusing to meet with a group that represents more than half a million Ontarians,” she says.
“Just being able to get in and talk to governments is very difficult whereas very well- heeled lobbyists are in all the time whenever they want to be,” Mehra says. “But family groups who are much smaller than ours who have very few resources have almost no ability to impact policies.”
The Ontario Health Coalition is organizing a Day of Protest against Bill 175 and the Ford government’s failure to address problems in long-term care on Wednesday, June 24.
With files by Alice Chen