Letter to the Editor- Ontario’s debt

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Dear Editor,

It may be no surprise to Ontarians that our healthcare system is in dire need of more investment and improvement. Nothing shines a light on all our societal failings like a pandemic. Looking at ourselves and how we fare compared to other countries is also helpful, especially since we like to make claims about how great Canada is.

According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 37 member countries, Canada ranks 33rd when it comes to the number of hospital beds available.

The OECD report measures what resources are available to deliver services to inpatients. This is calculated in terms of the number of hospital beds that are maintained, staffed, and immediately available for use. It is measured in number of beds per 1000 inhabitants. Canada had 2.5 beds available per 1000 inhabitants in 2019.

Our healthcare system in this regard is surpassed by so many other countries, including Slovenia and Estonia. Slovenia had 4.4 beds per 1000, and the Czech Republic had 6.6 beds per 1000. Japan leads the OECD countries with the most beds available at 13 beds per 1000 inhabitants.

In 2018, Ontario’s health quality watchdog reported that hospitals were overcrowded, wait times were too long, and there were not enough beds. This was nearly two years in advance of the pandemic that descended on us in 2020. The early language of this current provincial government when it came to power was one encouraging institutions to look for greater efficiencies. This was followed by an announcement of $90 million, which is $10 million less than the previous government announced.

Healthcare professionals are calling for 12,000 additional long term care beds in the next few years. Clearly, the problem is compounding quickly, and is exacerbated by the pandemic, and our rapidly aging population. The writing has been on the wall for some time now, and we were aware of this crisis for the past decade with minimal government response.

We know that we need significant long-term investments in hospitals and across the continuum-of-care. Yet, we are faced with rhetoric about the government purse being empty, and an economic crisis. The ideology of lower taxes includes the reality of fewer services.

Doug Ford’s Conservative government provided tax cuts to the wealthiest people in Ontario, resulting in huge savings for millionaires; but it ripped $308 million out of our public purse.

In September of 2019 the Financial Post reported the following:

“The dire and declining state of Ontario’s finances should concern everyone. Debt today means taxes tomorrow, and each Ontarian already owes more than $24,000 thanks to government overspending. Ontario’s debt grows by $523 each second. Ontarians pay $1.5 million every hour on interest alone.

A recent report by the Fraser Institute estimates that at the current rate of spending, an additional $42 billion will be added to Ontario’s debt from now until the government balances the budget in 2023 — which isn’t, conveniently, until after the next election.”

You would think that when Moody’s downgraded Ontario’s credit rating, this current government would be looking for money anywhere to pay down debt and enhance services, but they cancelled out a huge portion of probable revenue.

Public statements by the Conservative government to balance the budget appear to be only good sounding rhetoric. Everyone expects fiscal prudence. Don’t live beyond your means is an excellent mantra. However, there is more to a society than an accounting ledger.

If finding savings at the cost of putting our health care system in jeopardy so that millionaires can get a tax break, is part of the program, then count me out. If finding savings to pay down debt means putting peoples lives at risk in a crumbling health care system, I cannot support this. If it means we should all ante up, while millionaires are given a pass, then count me out. I identify with the majority of Ontarians who are struggling. I agree that we should tax things we want to discourage, and remove taxes from goods and services we wish to promote. I support government action that leads to a better quality of life for all. Our vision must be to create a better society, and not a vision driven by political favours to rich friends. Next election, we must vote as if our lives depend on it. As we can see by what is happening in our facilities, it just might.

Lorraine Rekmans

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