The Ontario NDP plans on hiring tens of thousands of front-line workers, introducing universal mental health care and the nation’s “first real pharmacare program” if elected on June 2.
The sweeping pledge came Monday with the release of the party’s platform, which commits to hiring 10,000 personal support workers, 30,000 nurses and 20,000 more teachers and education workers.
Universal mental health care was announced as a pillar of their platform earlier this month during a campaign rally in Toronto, at which Leader Andrea Horwath proclaimed, “Many who needed help didn’t get it.” She pointed to a report that cited a list of 28,000 young people waiting on mental health services in Ontario, which is more than double the 12,000 on wait lists in 2017.
Also baked into the party’s platform is the notion of making “everyday life more affordable,” according to a media release issued by the party, which includes bringing back rent control, building more starter homes, cracking down on housing speculators, banning user fees in health care and tackling the rising price of hydro bills.
Locally, Sudbury NDP MPP Jamie West said that “affordability in general” has been the “No. 1 issue” that has come up.
“It’s getting to a point where people with decent jobs are saying ‘I’ll never be able to afford a house’,” he said, adding that the starter home he and his wife purchased for just shy of $200,000 approximately 20 years ago would now carry a much greater cost, putting homes out of reach for many people.
Greater Sudbury is currently served by two NDP MPPs, including West in Sudbury and France Gélinas in Nickel Belt. West was formally installed as this year’s candidate in November, while Gélinas became this year’s candidate in January.
Having pledged greater service levels and affordability, the obvious question is: How can the party pay for it, if elected?
They’d raise taxes, West told Sudbury.com, noting that the tax increase in question wouldn’t apply to low- and middle-class Ontarians, which would run counter to their affordability pledge.
Low- and middle-income households’ income tax would be frozen for four years under an NDP government, and the service-level boost would be funded by “multi-millionaires and massive corporations who exploit tax loopholes to pay their fair share,” according to the party’s media release.
“It’s really a matter of how you direct your costs,” West said. “What we’ve done as a province for decades now is keep getting the middle class and the poor to cover the costs.”
The “high-end wealthy class” will cover it, he said. “We’re talking about people who own multiple homes around the world … who are able to pay more and have never been asked to by the Liberal and Conservative parties of the past.”
In addition to supporting the Ontario NDP’s provincial platform, West pointed to a handful of additional points of advocacy that align with the party’s overarching direction which he intends to continue pressing during his re-election campaign.
Laurentian University will come up on the campaign trail a great deal, he said, which the Ontario NDP has already pledged to save jobs at.
Deprivatizing long-term care homes and the “warehousing of our elderly” will be tackled, and he said a big part of the solution will be the addition of the front-line staff they have pledged in their provincial platform.
West also pledged action in completing the four-laning of Highway 69 and funding staff at the city’s supervised consumption site and transitional housing complex, which the province has yet to do.
Regardless of whether the Ontario NDP takes power, he said these points of advocacy will continue with him in Queen’s Park.
“There’s a lot of pushing on my end to make sure I annoy the minister and the premier again and again,” he said, adding that without continued advocacy, these things get shoved into the background. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
West said his campaign will consist of a great deal of door-knocking — with a mask on because COVID isn’t in the rear-view mirror yet, he said — and he plans on opening a campaign office soon.
The Ontario NDP’s full platform can be found by clicking here.
Sudbury Liberal candidate David Farrow opened his campaign office this past weekend, and the electoral district is also being challenged by Ontario Green Party candidate David Robinson, Progressive Conservative candidate Marc Despatie and Ontario Party candidate Jason LaFace.
In Nickel Belt, Gélinas is being challenged by Liberal candidate Gilles Proulx and Progressive Conservative candidate Randy Hazlett.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.