Health care, Hydro One the focus of NDP southwest Ontario platform

NDP leader Andrea Horwath announced her party’s platform for southwestern Ontario in London on Tuesday, promising to eliminate hallway medicine, put Hydro One back in public hands, and move carefully on high-speed rail.

But Liberal candidate says Horwath's plan for high-speed rail is 'wishy washy'

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath promises to eliminate hallway medicine and put Hydro One back into public hands. (Gary Ennett/CBC)

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced her party's platform for southwestern Ontario in London Tuesday, promising  to eliminate hallway health care, put Hydro One back in public hands, and move carefully on high speed rail.

Horwath accused Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne of creating a crisis in the health-care system, particularly in the London region.

She said provincial funding cuts have forced the London Health Sciences Centre to slice $141 million from its budget, the equivalent of 488 frontline staff.

Horwath said the cuts have resulted in hallway medicine, "the lack of dignity, that lack of privacy  … where people are being treated in wide-open hallways.They're lined up in gurneys, where they don't have the ability … to have even a private consult with a health-care professional, let alone a call bell, or a washroom to use when they need it."

The NDP leader said the situation is so bad that the London Health Sciences Centre has had to implement what they're calling a "hallway medicine protocol." She said "it should never have come to this."

Warning about Ford

But Horwath warned her London audience that PC Leader Doug Ford doesn't have the answers. She noted that the last time the Conservatives were in office, they closed hospitals and fired nurses.

"And now Mr. Ford is saying he is going to cut at least $6-billion dollars from our public services…What does that mean for the health-care you're already missing here?"

Horwath said her party would end hallway medicine, properly fund hospitals and ensure that the longterm care system "is fixed". 

She said the NDP would support the public inquiry into the actions of nurse Eliazabeth Wettlaufer who pleaded guilty in June 2017 to murdering eight nursing home patients.

But Horwath said an NDP government would expand the terms of the inquiry within 100 days of taking office. She said the current focus is too narrow. She said Ontarians deserve a full public inquiry into all systemic problems with long-term care "so that none of us ever have to worry again what we're going to find when we go visit our loved one."

If elected premier, the NDP leader also promises to buy back Hydro One and reduce hydro bills by 30 per cent.

"We're going to make sure that we own more of and pay less for our hydro. Not only for us … but for the next generation, as well."

Qualified support for high speed rail

Horwath also touched on the party's new Southwestern Transportation Strategy, which she said would meet the needs of all communities in the region. But she didn't mention high speed rail in her speech.

When asked by a reporter whether she definitively supports high-speed rail, Horwath answered: "absolutely." But, she added, her party wants to make sure that all communities in the southwest are engaged in the current environment assessment process.

She said the best system has to be agreed upon. "That means not only the corridor itself and the right kind of technology … it means protecting farmland."

Kate Graham, the Liberal candidate in London-North-Centre, said Horwath's support for high speed rail in Southwestern Ontario is "wishy-washy". (Gary Ennett/CBC)

The Liberal candidate in London North Centre, Kate Graham, took in Horwath's speech and said she was disappointed with her stance on high-speed rail.

"Some of the comments this morning were a little wishy-washy. This will not happen unless there is strong political leadership. We need to be real with people. There will be impacts, there are of any transit project in any community around the world. We cannot please everyone."

Earlier Tuesday, Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne was critical of the NDP's southwestern Ontario platform, saying it makes no firm financial commitment to high-speed rail.