Plate of beans and potatoes evidence of budget cuts: NDP

Colin Sproul, an NDP candidate in Annapolis, shared photo of mother's nursing home meal and said budget cuts by the McNeil government were "detached from the reality of life in nursing homes."

Colin Sproul, an NDP candidate in Annapolis, shared photo of mother's nursing home meal

Colin Sproul, an NDP candidate in the riding of Annapolis, said the photo was taken on Saturday. (CBC)

It was a photograph of plate of potatoes and baked beans on a table in a nursing home.

Evidence, the NDP claimed Tuesday, of the impact of nursing home budget cuts by a McNeil government "detached from the reality of life in nursing homes."

"This is my own mom's supper from last week," said Colin Sproul, an NDP candidate in the riding of Annapolis, represented since 2003 by Stephen McNeil.

He brought the photograph to a media event in Dartmouth where his leader, Gary Burrill, promised to restore $8-million in funding for diet and recreation in long-term care.

"Beans and scalloped potatoes are an iconic meal here in Nova Scotia for a lot of our families," Sproul told reporters.

"Those hands made that meal for me a thousand times — but when they did it, it came with a piece of ham and some fresh vegetables. This is a direct consequence of Stephen McNeil's cuts in Annapolis County and the effect its having on people," Sproul told reporters.

But is the photo the whole story?

Sproul said the photograph was taken Saturday at the Mayflower, a transitional care unit inside Middleton Soldiers Memorial Hospital, where his mother has been waiting for a long-term care bed.

CBC News asked the Nova Scotia Health Authority for a response to the photo and Sproul's claim.

In an emailed statement, spokesperson Kristen Lipscombe said the menu at Middleton offers 30 different items, including fruits and vegetables.

"Patients choose what they want to eat depending on how they feel prior to meals. Fresh and homemade food is prepared daily by our cooks on site, offering plenty of healthy choices for our patients," Lipscombe told CBC News.

In response, Sproul said he agrees that staff strive to nourish their patients at all long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia, but he said they are being forced to stretch a nickel too far.

"At least in this particular instance, all patients I observed were served the same meal from a portable steam table," Sproul said.

"If the Liberal government actually believes that long-term care patients are given a menu full of healthy options to choose from like some sort or restaurant experience, I'd say that's an excellent indicator of how far out of touch they are with the realities in these institutions."

NDP present nursing home horror stories

A Unifor union shop steward at Halifax's Northwood seniors complex also appeared at the New Democrat event claiming conditions are deteriorating in a number of nursing homes across the province.

"Some of our homes have actually had to go to cheaper incontinent products and that creates not only risks for infections for our residents, but they are also uncomfortable and they create rashes and other issues," Jessica Dauphinee said.

Dauphinee claimed one small nursing home is struggling to make payroll and was too strapped to fix a broken water heater leaving residents unable to have hot showers for several weeks.

"They were having to use the hot water from coffee machines and dilute it down with cold water just to give people bed baths," Dauphinee said.

She did not identify the home.

Stephen McNeil: the villain

The NDP say these stories debunk the Liberal government claim that an $8-million funding cut over two years was on administration and had no impact on residents.

Their recent — and short lived — budget included a $3.2-million increase in funding for food and recreational care in long-term care.

At both NDP campaign events this week, the New Democrats have striven to turn the McNeil government's achievement of back-to-back balanced budgets into a bad thing.


Paul Withers


Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.