BC NDP promise $1.4B for care homes if elected
A member of NDP Leader John Horgan's security detail looks on during an election campaign stop in Maple Ridge, B.C., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
VICTORIA -- NDP Leader John Horgan rolled out a major campaign promise Wednesday, pledging to spend $1.4 billion over 10 years to build more long-term care homes, and to ensure that residents have single rooms in the province's care homes.
"I believe seniors in their latter years should have the dignity of one room with just them in it," said Horgan from a campaign event in Surrey.
Horgan also pledged to raise wages for staff at care homes, and to continue the policy – which began during the pandemic – of allowing staff to only work at one home, to reduce the chances of diseases spreading.
"The policies of the past put us in a dire position and led to the loss of many, many, many lives through the COVID process," he said.
Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson agreed that proper wages for staff is key, as is restricting them to working at one site.
But, Wilkinson was skeptical of the NDP's major spending announcement.
"When the NDP come up with a grand plan, we say what seniors say to us, we need a plan now," said Wilkinson.
That urgency was the message at a rally in front of the B.C. legislature Tuesday, where folks were pushing political leaders to allow families to once again provide care – safely – to their loved ones in care homes.
Those at the rally said that personal care is essential to prevent the rapid decline of many loved ones at the end of their lives.
Brenda Brophy was one of the organizers of Tuesday's rally. She described Wednesday's announcement as good news – especially with an aging demographic in need of more care homes in B.C. However, Brophy says it is not a solution for families with loved ones already in care homes.
"So, (for) the new ones going forward, that's fantastic," said Brophy. "But it doesn't do anything for us."
Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau called the NDP's care homes plan a slow response to an unfolding crisis, adding that her party would be making a care home announcement Thursday.
Furstenau also said the snap election has interfered with addressing the situation in care homes.
"We need to urgently find solutions to that," she said. "We should be in the legislature right now. We should have a health minister who's working with the provincial health officer."
With the Liberals also pledging to set out their position on care homes in the coming days, it seems the current crisis rocking families, along with an aging demographic in B.C., has made this issue something parties can't ignore.