Letters to the Editor: Feb. 15, 2020

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Health-care ‘crisis’ needs attention

In regards to the article, “PSW industry in city in crisis,” we appreciate the attention given to the issue. We also appreciate the accuracy of the reporting. As a neutral observer, the correspondent had to present the government’s response. However, given that the government had the last word in that article, we believe it is in the interest of the readership to learn of the Kingston Health Coalition’s response.

Promises of action offer little satisfaction in the face of ongoing practice and policy. Words will not address the issues raised, and trying to address the crisis “on the cheap” is pointless.

The underlying message in the Crisis in Care report is that long-term care has been underfunded for more than 15 years. Increases in funding have been significantly below the rate of inflation, so the program needs lots of catch up funding. Instead, this government is continuing the miserly underfunding relative to the rate of inflation. Worse, for Kingston, the government is cutting two major funds for front-line care. The elimination of the Structural Compliance Fund and the High Wage Transition fund will remove about $356,000 from personal care services at the two municipal long-term care facilities in Kingston. This is calamitous for personal support workers and residents in those facilities.

The union staff representatives at our news conference related how hampered they are in negotiations with long-term care employers. The government policy of restricting wage increases of public employees to one per cent has become the standard in settlements. Once again, the lowest-paid workers doing the most challenging front-line work are left farther and farther behind, making the PSW crisis even worse.

And we need more PSWs to reduce the workload. That will also require funding. The government could show good faith by immediately reinstating the funds being cut. It could also show good faith by excluding PSWs from the cap on wage increases. They also could increase the funding to long-term care facilities to above the rate of inflation. Of course, those would be the first steps.

If we were facing a raging epidemic or a flood or a provincewide blackout, we would find the resources to respond and to be better prepared in the future. This crisis requires the same sense of urgency and generosity.

Matthew Gventer 

Co-chair, Kingston Health Coalition

Will blockade in Ontario help with issue?

The blockage of the CN mainline between Montreal and Toronto in sympathy with the Wet’suwet’en First Nations protests near Houston, B.C., should be brought into focus. The First Nations blockades in B.C. have been ongoing for a number of years and are the result of the fact that most First Nations in B.C. have never surrendered their Aboriginal title to the land through the treaty process. This has led to the current conflict between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and Coastal Gaslink Pipeline construction.

The pipeline company says it has signed agreements with the First Nations along the pipeline route. Generally, the First Nations mentioned were elected representatives of reserves and not the hereditary chiefs. The reserves in question were established as reserves allotted for fishing purposes in the period 1849 to 1925 and were generally not established as part of any treaties. The current conflict and protests in B.C. are generally made in an effort to force the treaty process and establish Aboriginal title.

B.C. joined Confederation in 1871 without many treaties, which extinguished Aboriginal title, and few such treaties have been concluded since. This has led to conflict over road, highway, railway and pipeline construction in lands that were never surrendered by treaty. The numbered treaties that followed Canadian Confederation were signed in general by the hereditary chiefs or acknowledged leaders of various bands. This process has been very difficult in B.C.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are quite rightly trying to establish the right to treaty and establishing title to their traditional lands by contesting construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline through their hereditary territory. It is doubtful that blockading the CN mainline in Ontario will help in this regard.

Donald Coulter

Kingston