“If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing” – Malcolm X
By Zaid Noorsumar
The Ford government is back to overhauling Ontario’s home and community care system this month and Canadian media has nothing to say about it even as it impacts over 700,000 care recipients and tens of thousands of workers.
In conjunction with last year’s massive health care restructuring legislation, this bill will virtually eliminate public oversight of home care and hand it over to the providers, including for-profit companies.
The new home care legislation was being rushed through the provincial assembly before the pandemic, which temporarily forced the government to halt proceedings.
At the end of May, the government revealed that it would continue with the legislation with merely three days of public hearings in June.
The media has responded with crickets, even as it has been breathlessly reporting on long-term care and pretending to care about privatization.
However, both news reports served as neat government and industry propaganda. The Toronto Star article reads like it may well have been written by Ford’s PR aides – save for customary soundbites by the official opposition (hurray for balanced journalism!).
The CBC report isn’t much better. It repeats the false narrative that better home care will reduce hospital overcrowding, while relying on the Ford government and the home care for-profit lobby group for explication.
And that’s pretty much all the attention from mainstream media on a massive home care reform bill.
Trust the corporate lobby group
Although there is a fair bit of journalism about home care, there is a conspicuous absence of privatization and corporate ownership in the discussion.
In fact, one of the mainstream media’s go-to sources is Home Care Ontario. CBC and others generally don’t inform readers about the true motives of the association. It’s just assumed that this group has legitimacy and it has the best interests of home care recipients and workers at heart.
But this is the association that mainly represents for-profit providers, as evidenced by the presence of CarePartners, ParaMed (owned by Extendicare) and Bayshore on its board.
What the mainstream media never tells us is how the home care sector has been profoundly damaged by the privatization of services that has benefitted these corporate players.
That history of corporate consolidation has been erased from mainstream discourse, even as it has had a deleterious impact on the workers, who have been super-exploited ever since.
But instead of holding the corporations accountable, journalists use them as credible sources on working conditions (of a predominantly women-dominated workforce with over-representation of racialized people and/or immigrants).
Home Care Ontario is frequently quoted expressing concerns about workers, even as its positions are fundamentally anti-labour, and its chairperson, Linda Knight, operates a brutal homecare business by the name of CarePartners. 
Last year in November, when CarePartners was bullying workers at the bargaining table (refusing to give workers a single paid sick day or contributing to a union pension plan), CBC’s Mike Crawley was repackaging Home Care Ontario propaganda.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare ran a digital and print advertising campaign for most of the year (including in the Toronto Star), without a single publication showing any interest in about nearly 3,000 health care workers. 
But Google “Home Care Ontario” and notice how often the for-profits’ lobbying group is feted by the heroes of Canadian journalism.
One of the other go-to media sources for care work is the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association (OPSWA). But this is an organization with questionable credentials. For one, it is very cosy with for-profit employers who are also its sponsors.
Miranda Ferrier, the OPSWA president, has good relationships with both Linda Knight and Sue VanderBent, the CEO of Home Care Ontario (who gave her a LinkedIn endorsement).
OPSWA’s 2020 annual conference in May was set to be chiefly sponsored by Extendicare, the for-profit long-term care giant and operator of the home care firm, ParaMed.
Long-term care coverage before the pandemic
It took absolute devastation in Canadian nursing homes for the mainstream media to speak about privatization in the sector. For years and years, the critical question of profit-taking in long-term care was hardly mentioned, never questioned and perpetually ignored even as unions and advocacy groups cried themselves hoarse about it. 
In fact, mainstream media often cited corporate lobby spokespersons as “health care leaders,” as in this Toronto Star article from June 2018.
But the pandemic forced the mainstream to confront the issue, and thankfully, now we have academic experts such as Pat Armstrong, Tamara Daly and others routinely being quoted on the perils of privatizing long-term care. Additionally, the crisis has spurred some brilliant journalism from Toronto Star and others that is seriously challenging the corporate long-term care model.
But if the media truly cares about privatization in long-term care, why is it giving home care corporations a pass? If outlets want to maintain their credibility, they have to be more proactive and actually give a damn about people, and not just when it’s fashionable to do so.
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1. Ontario Health Coalition cites studies saying that the vast majority of people in ALC (Alternate Level of Care) hospital beds can’t be taken care of at home due to complex needs, but the media continues to perpetuate this narrative by endlessly quoting government and industry officials.
2. The Premier’s Council on Hallway Healthcare includes the CEO of Bayshore on it, but aside from a solitary Toronto Star column by Bob Bell, this hasn’t been reported in the news.
3. According to SEIU, this year there has been a positive change in the attitude of CarePartners. But by then, a collective agreement that left workers in poverty wages without a pension had already been signed.
4. CBC did report on the 29 CarePartners’ schedulers who were locked out for several months in Sudbury, before the United Steelworkers local union disbanded. However, there was no analysis of the larger problem of for-profit home care
5. From CUPE and OFL campaigns in the 90s to SEIU’s Tell Them to Care campaign in 2019, unions have been warning about the impact of for-profit seniors’ care