Balancing access and privacy: campaigning in P.E.I.'s long-term care homes
'The residents look forward to that and are very welcoming and engaged,' says CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes
With the provincial election campaign in full swing, candidates are spending their days knocking on doors hoping to win the support of voters in their district.
For many candidates, that also means visiting long-term care homes.
"They're very important because we really are concerned about seniors and their issues, so we try to get out to each and every one of them," said District 13 Progressive Conservative candidate Donna Hurry.
Hurry said she has already visited a number of long-term care homes in her district, and she's not alone. Candidates from each party said visiting care homes is an important part of their campaigning.
"These are people who obviously cannot come to you," said Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker.
"Often they are people who … didn't grow up with computers and internet access, so offering that as an option to find out what your positions are on various issues or to find out about you personally is not always an option. So coming into the homes and meeting personally with them is very important."
Candidates will often host events in a public area at a long-term care home, giving residents the chance to meet with them.
Hurry, Bevan-Baker and District 14 Liberal candidate Gord McNeilly said they will also go door-to-door within the homes, with the staff's permission and guidance. Some homes will allow it, but may have restrictions on taking photos or videos of the residents.
NDP Leader Joe Byrne said he prefers to hold events in common areas.
"I take my direction from the staff. They know who the residents are, and in what condition or what space or what format is the best way to present it," he said.
In an effort to protect resident privacy, some homes are re-evaluating how they handle election campaigning, and are putting new protocols in place.
Jason Lee, CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes, which operates Garden Home and Whisperwood Villa in Charlottetown, and Lady Slipper Villa in O'Leary, said candidates are welcome to visit. However, he said the homes now discourage door-to-door campaigning.
"We'd much rather they allow us to … co-ordinate an event and have the residents come to them, you know, in our activities room or in a common area, and get engaged on their own terms," he said.
Lee said there was no specific incident that led to a change in campaigning protocol. He cited anecdotal feedback from residents, some of whom said they didn't want strangers showing up at their door.
He said for the most part, residents enjoy the chance to get to know candidates.
"The residents look forward to that and are very welcoming and engaged," he said.
Mary Gaudet is a resident at Whisperwood Villa, and said she wouldn't mind candidates knocking on her door. More importantly, she's happy they take the time to visit the home.
"I like them to come, and I like them to ask our opinions. And to tell what we feel are important to us," Gaudet said.
In P.E.I.'s nine provincially-run long-term care homes, politicians are welcome to campaign door-to-door.
"A senior staff member does accompany the candidate during their visit to ensure residents feel comfortable as some are living with dementia and other complex health care needs," said Health PEI in a statement to CBC.
Checking with staff
All of the candidates CBC spoke with said they always check with staff before visiting residents, to ensure it is a convenient time.
"You just have to respect the rules and the unwritten rules of visiting and it's worked out great for I think myself and probably most of the candidates," said McNeilly.