December 11, 2023

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Bonnie Crombie pledges to boost health-care pay in Ontario Liberal leadership platform

Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Bonnie Crombie is proposing to increase the new minimum wage floor for personal support workers and nurses in Ontario, Global News has learned, as part of her health-care platform designed to win over members ahead of a leadership vote.

Crombie, who has consistently polled in first place in the liberal leadership race, is set to release her health-care platform alongside Liberal MPP Adil Shamji, who dropped out of the race in September to endorse the frontrunner.

As part of the deal, Crombie pledged to adopt Shamji’s health-care policies largely informed by his position as a frontline emergency room physician.

The overarching theme of Crombie’s health-care platform, focuses on supporting universal health care and opposing the Ford government’s health-care policies from wage limits to the rise of for-profit clinics to tackle the backlog of surgeries.

“The threats from Doug Ford’s creeping privatization of our healthcare system are what motivated me to enter this leadership race,” Crombie said. “Our single-payer, publicly-funded universal healthcare system is treasured by Ontario families, including my own, and we must protect it.”

The policy document, provided to Global News, said the Liberal party under Crombie would would defend the Canada Health Act in “sprit and by the letter of the law” and suggested enforcement tools would be used to hold “bad actors” accountable.

To tackle the province’s surgical backlog, Crombie is promising to expand hospital operating room hours and eliminate the province’s reliance on private for-profit surgical centres.

The document, however, doesn’t mention what Crombie would do with existing Community Surgical and Diagnostic Centres — private surgical clinics providing OHIP funded services — that have expanded under the Ford government as a solution to surgical wait times.

The policy document doesn’t provide the estimated funding required to increase operating room hours.

Crombie is also promising reverse the controversial closure of the Minden emergency department and suggested increased health care funding to address pressures on emergency rooms and to prevent shuttering.

One of the most expensive promises, however, is connected with compensation for health-care workers.

In addition to the repeal of Bill 124 — the controversial Ford government legislation that capped wage increases for thousands of employees in the broader, public service, including health-care workers — Crombie’s platform is promising to raise the base minimum wage for thousands of health-care workers.

According to the policy document, minimum wage for a personal support workers would start at $25 an hour while the pay scale for registered practical nurses would start at $35 an hour.

The move, the platform document notes, aims to erase the wage differential between health-care workers in hospital, long-term care, and home and community care which, unions say, has contributed to a shortage of health-care staff in the provinces nursing homes especially after the pandemic.

The policy point, however, did not come with a price tag.

Crombie has until late-November to convince roughly 80,000 party members to throw their support behind her.

Other Liberal leadership candidates include federal MPs Nate Erskine-Smith, and Yasir Naqvi and provincial MPP Ted Hsu.

The party will announce the next leader on Dec. 2.

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