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New Democrats and Conservatives spar in Belleville over long-term care

New Democrat MPP Ian Arthur (centre) spoke about the need for more long-term care beds. He was flanked by NDP MPPs Sandy Shaw (right) of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas and Sol Mamakwa (left) of Kiiwetinoong riding. Photo by Robert Champagne, QNet News

By Robert D. Champagne [1]

BELLEVILLE – New Democrat and Conservative MPPs agreed about the need for more long-term care beds in the Quinte area and across the province, but that was where agreement ended as the Ontario legislature’s standing committee [2] on finance and economic affairs heard from community groups in Belleville Wednesday.

Three MPPs from the New Democratic Party who sit on the committee gave a press conference midway through the day-long session to say that Ontario is in a long-term-care crisis.

Ian Arthur [3], MPP for Kingston and the Islands, was critical of the Conservative government for what he called a lack of funding.

“There hasn’t been a single (long-term-care) bed built in Hastings County in over five years,” Arthur said. “We need investment in long-term care. Families are struggling when they have someone who needs to go into it. We need those beds built, and we need them very, very quickly.”

People across Ontario are saying they need investment in these services, he said.

There is also a need for more funding for mental-health services, Arthur said.

As he critiqued the government’s plan to roll out 15,000 long-term-care beds across the province, [4] he said: “In Hastings (County), over 1,000 beds are needed right now,” and 50,000 more beds are needed across Ontario.

“The 15,000 that are planned are a drop in the bucket.”

David Piccini, the Conservative MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, said the New Democrats want to go back to a system that wasn’t working. Photo by Robert Champagne, QNet News

In response, David Piccini, the Conservative MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, said the New Democrats are “advocating for what was done before, and categorically that system wasn’t working.”

The previous Liberal government “ran up $15 billion deficits,” Piccini said. “But did we see double the hospital beds? Did we see double the long-term-care beds in this province? No. My riding, this area, no.

“We have made a commitment to building 15,000 new beds and redeveloping an additional 15,000. Of that, over 7,800 are online right now, 300 in my region alone.

“Do we have more to do? Absolutely. But our government … made a remarkable investment in our first year towards our 30,000 goal.”

Daryl Kramp, the Conservative MPP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington, denied the NDP MPPs’ assertion that Ontario is experiencing a long-term-care crisis.

“Crisis, no. Absolute need, yes,” Kramp said.

Conservative MPP Daryl Kramp, who represents Hastings-Lennox and Addington, said Ontario is not experiencing a long-term-care crisis. Photo by Robert Champagne, QNet News

“One of the challenges, of course, is you don’t create (long-term-care beds) overnight.

“We are moving very, very aggressively and we have a few already committed and construction in this area. Right now I have half a dozen projects (in his riding) waiting on ministry approval.”

There are three long-term-care facilities being built in his riding, and each has 128 beds, Kramp said. That means a total of 384 beds will be built in his riding in the coming years, he said.