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Essex MPP says there is a need for investments in long-term care, education, and healthcare

by Sylene Argent

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak said things he has been fighting for – such as investments in long-term care, education, and healthcare – are not just luxuries, but fundamental protections for communities. And, through the pandemic, the need to support those entities is even more noticeable.

“We have seen a clear and present threat to that over the last year through COVID-19, which fundamentally challenged every one of our systems that keep us together, keep us healthy, and keep us productive,” he said. “We are only as safe as the most vulnerable among us.”

Based on projections and modelling the Province has released relating to the pandemic, Natyshak said questions he is asking himself are: what was not done, where did this Province fail, and how can officials learn from this going forward to ensure it never happens again?

“Leadership matters in emergencies and in crisis,” Natyshak said. “We’ve seen other jurisdictions with clear, concise, transparent, and accountable leadership. And, they have been able to not only manage this threat and the pandemic better than most, but they also have a lot of buy-in and support from their communities. I am really looking at New Zealand, who, by any metric and any standard, their Prime Minister has led that country through this pandemic with the least amount of economic and health suffering out of all developed countries on the planet.”

There are models of where governance works well and where it doesn’t. We deserve that type of leadership, he said.

In terms of the epidemiology of the rates and infection, an incremental decline was noticed late last week across the province, Natyshak said, noting benefits from the lockdown measures were starting to be seen. “The mortality rates are concerning, because they are continuing to rise, and the ICUs here, and across the province, are stretched,” Natyshak said, adding he is in continuous contact with local hospital staff and administration, and, “They are still not very confident things are going to get better until we have mass vaccination.”

During the pandemic, small businesses have been devastated in the region and across the province. That’s why, in April of last year, Natyshak said the NDP released its “Saving Main Street Plan,” which would have supported small businesses with a $10,000 a month grant to keep their doors open and pay expenses. Instead, the Province just released a one-time, up to $20,000 grant, through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, for eligible businesses. Many small businesses, he said, have already closed through the pandemic.

“It is another case of hindsight, where had the government acted earlier, could we have avoided such catastrophe, not only health-wise, but economically…they should have acted sooner.” He added the Province is currently sitting on billions of federal dollars that was transferred to support a whole host of measures, chief among them, small businesses and communities.

The profit-driven long-term care industry needs to end, Natyshak said, adding the data shows there were more fatalities in privately-owned long-term care facilities than in publicly owned and not-for-profit. “That is an enormous failure in the system that is staring us right in the face, and if we don’t change the way we provide long-term care for seniors, then we are failing as leaders and political leaders. It needs to be a wholly public system, non-for-profit, with high quality and high, national recognized standards of care for seniors.”

Natyshak said there was a crisis in mental health and addictions prior to the pandemic. “There is no question that the collective trauma that we are all experiencing with the lockdowns, the economic stress, and health concerns we all have, there is no question the need to invest in mental health as a public good is greater than ever.”    

When the pandemic is over, a serious look needs to be taken at domestic production of vaccines and healthcare-related products. “We have to learn from this,” and one way to do that is through an inquiry on pandemic preparedness and actions at the Provincial and Federal level, so it never happens again.