Photo: Bill Walker
Bill Walker MPP Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound
Queen's Park

Bill Walker MPP

Media Release:


For Immediate Release
September 28, 2016

STATEMENT FROM MPP BILL WALKER ON NATIONAL SENIORS DAY

QUEEN’S PARK -- Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker marked today the National Seniors Day at Queen’s Park with a speech that questioned the Ontario Liberal government’s continued lack of action on seniors issues. Specifically, MPP Walker challenged the government over the shortage of long-term care beds, access to transportation across rural communities, affordable housing and the bungling of the seniors drug file.

MPP Walker says these shortcomings have enormous implications on our province as the population of seniors is expected to double.

“For Ontario’s seniors, life is simply harder under the Wynne Liberals,” he said. “We want and expect this Government to start standing up for seniors. As such, our expectation is that the Minister responsible will take some time today to reflect on these major and ongoing shortfalls, and take action to address.”

CONTACT: Ana Sajfert | ana.sajfert@pc.ola.org | 416-325-6242

 

Hansard:

Mr. Speaker,

Today, I rise on behalf of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Caucus and our leader Patrick Brown to recognize the National Seniors Day to be celebrated on October 1st.

So on this occasion, I would like to take a moment and share with the House Ontario’s Progress Report on seniors issues.

This is an important and revealing overview, weaved together by multiple senior citizens’ organizations across our province, and includes concerns echoed by the good people at the United Senior Citizens of Ontario (USCO) and Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP). Aging Ontarians, like other age groups, are feeling the effects of soaring housing, food and energy prices, resulting in rising seniors’ poverty rates. It’s estimated that 1 in 8 seniors live in poverty today, especially across rural communities.

If you ask a senior what they need, you will hear – at the extreme end of the needs spectrum – that they need access to a nursing-home bed and care. Of course, this need arises when the person can no longer live safely at home alone.

Yet, this Government has been slow to act on this need. Even though it talks a great deal about improvements to seniors’ care, evidence shows the opposite is true.

That almost 25,000 seniors today are waiting for a nursing bed – a list expected to double to 50,000 seniors in 6 years – means that many of our frail and sick seniors are being forced to occupy a hospital bed, or worse, to stay in their home without proper support, resulting in unnecessary suffering and hardship. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, Ontario has aging, crumbling long-term care homes and 30,000 outdated nursing beds that need to be rebuilt to safe, modern standards. Also, let’s not forget this Government continues to fail to protect those inside long-term care homes by not providing safer staffing levels of nurses and Personal Support Workers to ensure seniors are receiving high quality and consistent care. An intolerable situation, Mr. Speaker, which I have addressed in Estimates Committee and directly with the Minister.

Three other main issues that arise for seniors are access to affordable prescription drugs, access to affordable and supportive housing and assisted living services, and access to transportation.

For Ontario’s seniors, life is simply harder under the Wynne Liberals. Ontario’s seniors rely on their medications to keep them healthy and out of the hospital. Unfortunately, just earlier this year, Ontario’s seniors had to fight this Government over its proposal to hike their drug costs. It’s ludicrous to think this Government was toying with a plan that would lead some elderly and vulnerable seniors to stop taking their prescription medications over concerns about cost and, ultimately, put them at risk of being hospitalized and requiring emergency care.

Albeit, Mr. Speaker, this Government has made some strides – we do commend them on agreeing to cover the Shingles vaccine for eligible seniors in Ontario, which started this month.

Yet…what this Government giveth with one hand, it taketh away with the other. This brings me to a very contentious topic on age discrimination in stroke recovery. Instead of empowering stroke victims and helping them recover through rehabilitation services, this Government is cutting them off. Approximately 5,000 Post-Stroke Patients in Ontario are being denied public treatment services because of age. I will say that this Thursday the Members opposite will have a chance to reverse the course on this blatant case of Age Discrimination by supporting my colleague and Whitby MPP’s Private Member’s Bill to remove the age limit in stroke recovery so that all seniors – regardless of age - can have access to the rehabilitation program they need. Ontario’s senior stroke victims are counting on your support this Thursday to help reduce their out-of-pocket costs and improve their health.

When it comes to providing our seniors with security and peace of mind, access to safe and affordable housing is top of mind. Imagine my disappointment when I reached out recently to the Seniors Minister’s office about grants to assist senior citizens with housing repairs and accessibility and energy costs – sadly, the response was zero supports.

With that, I’d like to touch on another critical plan that’s missing in from this Government’s Agenda – the importance of maintaining a good quality of life for seniors, which is to help them stay active and connected to friends, family and community through reliable transportation infrastructure.

Across rural communities where there is almost no public transportation, seniors are being pushed into further isolation. The Minister responsible is quick to use talking points about providing grants for seniors, but the truth is her government’s policies are unresponsive to the seniors’ transportation needs. I think this is a shame. In my riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, seniors are some of our most dedicated and hardest working community volunteers. Implementing a reliable and effective transportation system would strengthen and, in the long-term, increase their quality of life so they can travel to their medical appointments, to work, to shop or just to be able to visit family and friends. I fully expect this Government to support our seniors’ engagement in community service by putting money where their mouth is – providing that money it promised for Community Transportation programs. I will be watching this program closely.

Mr. Speaker, after 13 long years in power, this government remains unprepared to meet the health care needs of our growing and aging population. Seniors have seen their physiotherapy services cut, stroke recovery cut, wait lists for nursing beds grow, while hydro rates are making them choose between turning on the heat and eating.
 
Our seniors deserve better.  We want and expect this Government to start standing up for them. As such, our expectation is that the Minister responsible will take some time today to reflect on these major and ongoing shortfalls, and take action to address.

 
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