BLUESKY BRIEF - August 20th

Health care is one of the most important issues for Canadians, and post-pandemic, seniors’ care remains in the spotlight. We all know that health care falls under provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Premiers across the country and particularly, in Saskatchewan and Quebec don’t want the intervention instead they want the federal government to show them the money. A lot of money was promised by the Liberals and NDP yesterday but is it enough to make the Premiers and voters happy? Let’s find out.

From the desk of Geoff Turner, Vice President

The first days are behind us. From Rideau Hall, opening moves, surprises besetting best-laid plans, and meeting planes, buses and pandemic campaigning protocols, we shift to a groundhog day-like routine of visiting, announcing something and meeting supporters in a couple of towns or cities. This means a carefully planned daily roll-out of policy planks, but with the ability to stay nimble to contrast policy or lob something that will interrupt your opponent’s planned message for the day. As noted in an earlier Bluesky Brief, an unusual feature of this campaign is having the two opposition parties release a platform in advance of campaigning, rather than a slow reveal leading up to a release mid-campaign, as the Liberals are doing. This also enables the Liberals to fine-tune their platform for optimal contrasts! And we have a good example Wednesday, with Long Term Care (LTC).

While vaccines and other safety measures have been put in place to prevent another wave of devastation for the most vulnerable people in LTCs, an appalled public still sees this as a matter of basic government decency – supporting elders requires not just dedicated, compassionate care, but a safe and decent place to live with dignity. Conservatives are offering $3 billion for LTC renovations and to update building codes, sweetened tax credits for seniors living independently or with family, and using immigration to fill LTC staffing shortages. For their part, the NDP keeps things simple: expel the private sector and offer a “Care Guarantee” that promises many things, except money.

Voters will contrast this with Trudeau’s offer for seniors, a $9 billion commitment to: create more LTC beds and to develop higher care standards, train and hire 50,000 more PSWs and a boost to $25/hour for PSW wages, co-develop an Indigenous LTC framework and double the home accessibility tax credit to $20,000 for seniors who want to stay in their homes. Some of this is federal jurisdiction, key components of this are provincial. But given that this is a priority in every jurisdiction, and like childcare, it’s doable with fed-prov cooperation.

That’s a contrast to his opponents that I would expect Mr. Trudeau to remind voters of frequently in this campaign.

From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President

COVID-19 has been devastating for Canada’s seniors and has shown for all to see the gaps of the long-term care system. Conservatives have a plan to help seniors stay in their own homes, improve the quality of long-term care, and maintain financial security for seniors by ensuring that their pensions are secure.

The Conservatives will help seniors stay in their own homes by amending the Home Accessibility Tax Credit to increase the limit from $10,000 per dwelling to $10,000 per person. Also, allowing seniors or their caregivers, including their children, to claim the Medical Expense Tax credit for home care. Additionally, they would introduce the Canada Seniors Care Benefit, paying $200 per month per household to any Canadian who is living with and taking care of a parent over the age of 70.

For long-term care facilities, the Conservatives are proposing $3 billion of infrastructure funding over the next three years to renovate long-term care homes in all provinces and territories across Canada. That money will also improve the care that residents receive and increase the number of personal support workers for seniors living in long-term care homes, retirement homes, or their own homes.

This is in addition to the increase to the Canada Health Transfer which will add $60 billion to the health care system over the next ten years and doubling federal investments in palliative care.

That paints a different picture than Mr. Trudeau would have you believe, that Conservatives are taking the country backwards. This plan meets or exceeds the plan the Liberals are putting forward.

From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant

Give that we are amid a global pandemic, it makes sense that certain issues would rise to the surface more than others, taking on a greater level of importance. Also given the past 16 months of pandemic life that we’ve lived, it stands to reason that people are expecting some concrete proposals to address them. Health care falls into that category, as we’ve seen how years of underfunding certain parts of our system and what that has meant in this moment of crisis.

The neglect of the long-term care system is a clear example, where COVID claimed many lives too soon and exposed the gaping holes in our system. This tragedy lead the NDP to lead the charge on reform of this system, pledging to remove private operators from the system and to pay workers working in homes proper living wages. In response to that, the Liberals removing private interests from the system. Meanwhile, the Conservative platform pledges $3 billion to renovate long-term care homes & more funds to hire long-term care workers, assumably in their current low range of pay.

While health care is a provincial jurisdiction, both Ottawa and the provinces see a system that is broken and needs not only serious investments but structural changes to make it work better. With our increasingly ageing population, this is not a problem we have decades to fix. While all three parties have different prescriptions to improve the system, only the NDP appears to have one that fixes the structural issues in the system itself. Both the Liberal and Conservative proposals have merit but tinker around, which is disappointing when compared to the need this pandemic as exposed.

On Vancouver Island, Justin Trudeau announced that if re-elected, a Liberal government would work with the provincial and territorial governments to ensure that support is there for seniors by

  • Raising wages for personal support workers, including a guaranteed minimum wage of at least $25 per hour;

  • Training up to 50,000 new personal support workers;

  • Doubling the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, which will provide up to an additional $1,500 to help seniors stay in their homes longer by making them more accessible;

  • Improving the quality and availability of long-term care home beds;

  • Continuing to implement strict infection prevention and control measures, including through more provincial and territorial facility inspections for long-term care homes; and

  • Developing a Safe Long Term Care Act collaboratively to ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve, no matter where they live.

Speaking in Alberta, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also addressed health care by announcing that he would increase the federal health care transfers and create a $250 million Critical Shortages Fund to hire more nurses and other health care workers.

Speaking from an Ottawa suburb, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole unveiled his party’s plan to tackle the housing problem in Canada. If chosen to form government, O’Toole is pledging to create one million homes in the next three years, address homelessness by re-implementing the Housing First approach, ban foreign investors who don’t live in Canada from buying property and make mortgages more affordable. Full details of this plan can be found on p55 of the party platform.

Social issues take over the campaign

Liberal leader vows conversion therapy bill will be a priority if re-elected.

Following Wednesday’s announcement from Elections Canada

Here is where you can expect the leaders to be today (all times in Eastern):

Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada is in Winnipeg, where he will make an announcement to support a safe return to work and school and hold a media availability at 9:45 a.m. ET.

Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is in Winnipeg where at 11 a.m. ET, he’ll make an announcement and hold a media availability at Bison Transport. In the evening, he will head to Saskatoon to attend an event with supporters at the Kickin’ Horse Saloon.

Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP is also in Saskatchewan, where he will visit the Cowessess First Nation and speak to the media at 1 p.m. ET. He will then visit the Cowessess gravesite at 2 p.m. In the evening, he will be in Regina to visit the 13th Avenue Food and Coffee House with NDP Regina-Lewvan candidate Tria Donaldson.

Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada is in Toronto, where she will hold a press conference at 12 p.m. ET on clean technology with St. Paul’s candidate Phil De Luna at Wychwood Barns. She will then hold a group discussion on clean technology and climate change and canvass with volunteers at the Performing Arts Lodges.

Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois is in Quebec, where he will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. ET on climate change with several Bloc candidates in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac. At 2:15 p.m ET, he’ll hold another press conference about oil in LeMoyne, a neighbourhood in Longueuil.

Principal Susan Smith providing her voice to election issues on CityTV’s Breakfast Television, CBC New Network and CPAC.

Consultant Cameron Holmstrom’s weekly column the Kenora Miner and News is not out and focuses on the start of the election.

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