NDP platform speaks to millennial issues, but once again offers few funding details
Between now and election day, The Pointer will be breaking down the platforms of Canada’s major parties, analyzing their promises to Canadians and what they plan to deliver for Peel. These stories are not endorsements, but meant to provide information to assist voters, and a record to hold the future government accountable.
Last week, a campaign snafu by the NDP around a staged PR-style election event, served as an apt metaphor for the party’s personality under Leader Jagmeet Singh.
He had hoped to roll out a “Punjabi Poutine” food truck featuring a recipe Singh claims to have come up with. The truck broke down, another attempt to attract the attention of young, cosmopolitan voters came off as a gimmick and his latest marketing effort fizzled out.
It’s a far cry from the roots of the New Democratic Party of Canada, founded in 1961 by Tommy Douglas, a Baptist Minister, during the height of the Cold War, to promote the values of blue-collar workers.
Today, the bright orange colours represent a party that has been shut out from the Prime Minister’s Office while featuring a young slate of millennials trying to highlight the dire consequences of unchecked climate change, struggles faced by BIPOC Canadians and the need to uphold Douglas’s unwavering commitment to impartial universal healthcare. Other pillars of the NDP under Singh include a commitment to solving the ongoing affordable housing crisis, guaranteeing a national childcare policy and introducing a pharmacare plan to cover all Canadians in need of vital medication.
In a young area like Peel, where the median age is 41.3, making it one of the youngest parts of the GTA, the NDP platform rolled out ahead of the 2021 election speaks to many of the issues residents face.
But it does not concretely address how to fix many of the identified problems and leaves voters guessing about how the party would pay for many of the initiatives it's promising.
Broad national commitments do not offer municipalities and provinces a picture of how their unique needs would be addressed, and paid for, under an NDP government. While healthcare, housing and infrastructure are all mentioned prominently in the platform, Peel-specific dimensions around these issues are not mentioned and it’s unclear how an NDP budget would balance all the competing federal, provincial, regional and local needs through a realistically costed financial plan for the country.
A huge topic top of mind for many voters ahead of September 20, is housing. The price of homes not just in the Greater Toronto Area but across the province, and much of the country, has skyrocketed dramatically since the recession more than a decade ago.
Peel hosts an outsized number of newcomers to Canada, adding a unique challenge for those seeking housing while rents and home ownership become increasingly unattainable.
In 2021, data put together for the Region of Peel show renting a house of any size is impossible for all low and moderate-income households. An income of $76,600 is needed to rent a bachelor apartment — a unit where the living space and bedroom are combined. In 2015 the median individual income in Peel was $30,715, according to the Census.
For a family, an income of $121,964, is needed to cover rent for a three-bedroom apartment, leaving enough room for other essential needs. In 2015, the median pre-tax household income in Peel was $86,233.
Newly constructed homes are often too expensive for first time home buyers looking to live in Peel.
(Isaac Callan/The Pointer)
For ownership, households earning less than $131,000 annually can’t afford to get into the market. The average home price in Peel, according to Toronto Real Estate Board sales figures for August, was $1,039,500.
The Region of Peel’s abandoned Home for All plan set a target of 7,500 new affordable units annually and 75,000 by 2028. Each year, it said the Region should ensure the construction of 2,000 new affordable units and 5,500 at market rates. The ambitious plan relied heavily on funding from upper levels of government which did not materialize.
The pandemic worsened the housing crisis as it dramatically increased the number of households now on the Region’s waitlist for affordable housing. By the end of 2020 it had grown to 22,445 households, from the end of 2019 when 14,997 households were on the list.
The NDP platform says the party would create at least 500,000 affordable housing units in the next decade if elected, including at least half within five years.
“This will be achieved with the right mix of effective measures that work in partnership with provinces and municipalities, build capacity for social, community, and affordable housing providers, to provide rental support for co-ops, and meet environmental energy efficiency goals,” the platform states.
It does not explain how much funding would be budgeted to meet these goals and to pay for the various incentives. It does not specify what those incentives would be and offers few details about how the private sector, along with local, regional and provincial partners would be engaged to ensure their priorities are considered in any national housing policy.
Further down, the NDP platform outlines the use of federal lands and resources for affordable housing projects, but offers no details about where these properties are located and how they would be turned into affordable housing. Most publicly owned brownfield sites within the Region of Peel have already been earmarked for private-sector development and it’s unclear what federal buildings might be used to create dense, affordable housing communities over the next three decades, when Peel’s population is projected to explode to well above 2-million residents.
For those with aspirations to buy a home, the NDP promises to re-introduce 30-year terms to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation for entry-level homes for first time buyers. This frees up money for buyers through smaller monthly payments, but results in larger overall interest payments.
“We’ll also give people a hand with closing costs by doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500,” the platform states.
Hundreds of patients were transferred out of Peel hospitals throughout the peak of the pandemic’s third wave because of the lack of capacity. Brampton is suffering through a decades-long healthcare crisis while Mississauga continues to face capacity issues, as healthcare funding for Peel has not kept pace with its explosive growth.
In 1986 the population of Mississauga was 374,005, this was a year after the second hospital, Credit Valley, opened. Since then, the population has doubled and there should be four hospitals to accommodate the growth. The city still only has two hospitals.
It has roughly 1.6 beds per 1,000 residents, more than Brampton’s pitiful allocation of 0.9 beds, but still well below the Canadian average of 2.5 per 1,000 residents. February 2021 data show Mississauga Hospital hit the province’s 8-hour wait target just 26 percent of the time, as patients spent an average of 17.6 hours in the emergency room before being admitted to a bed, while Credit Valley met the target just 14 percent of the time with an average wait of 21.8 hours. Brampton Civic, the city’s only hospital and the poster child for hallway healthcare, hit its target 17 percent of the time with an average wait of 18.9 hours.
Peel Memorial Hospital was built in 1925 to accommodate a population of 5,000 locals and those in the surrounding rural communities. In the next century, Brampton ballooned to 500,000 residents and the hospital stayed at constant capacity. Calls for another hospital started as early as the 90s, with Brampton Civic finally opening in 2007, with half the beds needed. Peel Memorial closed the same year.
In 2019, Singh promised that if elected he would deliver a second full-service hospital to the city where he began his political career as a provincial MPP. It was a pledge the province’s Liberal party had made almost 20 years ago, when plans for Civic were first outlined.
Peel Memorial was supposed to become the city’s second full-service hospital more than a decade ago. It eventually reopened in 2017 as a preventative healthcare facility with no in-patient beds, despite a commitment from the Dalton McGuinty Liberals after it was demolished in 2007 that Memorial would be rebuilt as a full-service hospital.
Operating at constant capacity for years burns out frontline workers and turns them away from the profession.
(Isaac Callan/The Pointer)
Information obtained by the NDP in 2019 showed Brampton Civic was operating between 101 percent and 106 percent capacity throughout the year, well beyond the recommended 85 percent capacity. Peel Memorial’s recently opened integrated wellness facility, which has no in-patient beds and a scaled down, part-time urgent care department, was operating between 557 and 587 percent of its capacity in 2019.
When Singh promised Brampton would get another full-service hospital if he was elected in 2019 the Liberals and Conservatives called him out, saying he was misleading Bramptonians as the federal government only has the ability to establish the amount of the annual health transfer to each province but has no say on how the money is spent.
In 2021, the NDP platform does not make any mention of building new hospitals for any community and Singh has not yet mentioned any specific commitments for Brampton or Mississauga, perhaps realizing he cannot direct funding for specific healthcare projects. Instead the platform largely speaks about universal healthcare (Medicare) for all and plans to eliminate for-profit long-term care homes.
“A New Democrat government will work with the provinces and territories to tackle wait times and improve access to primary care across the country – and we’ll work with the provinces to develop public infrastructure for secure, accessible virtual healthcare,” the platform reads.
A plan to retain, train and recruit those in the healthcare sector is also mentioned. The Medicare plan would provide drug coverage for everyone, and would be a $10 billion federal investment with a 2022 rollout under an NDP government.
In 2019, Jagmeet Singh and the NDP promised a new hospital for Brampton if elected. No similar promise has been made during this campaign.
(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer files)
During his only stop so far in Brampton, Singh spoke about the long-term care sector, specifically about the NDP commitment to eliminate for-profit care homes.
“It is wrong that for-profit exists in this system, there should be no profit that puts people as a less priority than profits and money,” Singh said at a recent media event. He did not detail how long-term care under an exclusively public model would be paid for or managed, as province’s are currently responsible for the sector.
Of the 411 deaths at these facilities in Peel, 12 involved outbreaks at the five publicly-funded facilities run by the Region, the rest happened at private, for-profit facilities. Residents in many of these care homes which failed to provide a reasonable standard of care, have been devastated by the pandemic.
Camilla Care Community, a private facility in Mississauga owned by Sienna Senior Living, accounted for 74 resident-deaths due to COVID-19.
The Pointer asked Singh at the press conference how he would advocate for Peel which often gets less per-capita funding than other Regions.
“When I advocate for getting profit out of long term care, I know the communities that are hardest hit will be the communities that will get helped the most,” he said.
Singh also mentioned how paid sick leave would largely benefit Peel as many residents work in essential jobs found in the region’s large manufacturing and food processing sector, where the virus that causes COVID-19 has spread around the workplace and into community settings.
“So when we talk about making sure there's good paid sick leave, when we talk about getting profit out of long-term care, that will directly help the people of Peel because they were the hardest hit,” Singh told The Pointer.
Mental Health and Addiction
Overdoses in Peel have increased dramatically during the pandemic, and a large number have been related to drugs tainted with dangerous compounds, mainly fentanyl, a powerful substance that has caused 80 percent of Peel’s overdose deaths since 2017.
The drug epidemic has spread simultaneously alongside the pandemic, oftentimes the latter making the other crisis worse. Peel Region Police is also feeling the impact, spending approximately $1.8 million in salaries in 2019 for officers in hospital waiting rooms dealing with people in a mental health crisis, an issue often linked to addiction.
The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Peel-Dufferin branch is one of the lowest funded in the province. It receives about a third of what other agencies get per capita. The Central West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), which includes Brampton, and the Mississauga Halton LHIN, received $66 and $53 respectively per capita from the provincial government for mental health and addictions support, well below the provincial average of $107 per capita.
The Mississauga Halton LHIN currently has one mental health bed per 78,500 residents, while Brampton and the Central West LHIN have one per 66,808. Toronto Centre, which experiences high need, has one bed for every 3,500 residents.
For those under the age of 18, mental health services are just as hard to come by. Peel receives $22.3 million yearly for children and youth mental health services, three times less than the provincial average of about $66 million. The region is home to 12 percent of the province’s children under the age of 19. As of June 2020, 550 children/youth were waiting for counselling services.
Peel children as young as six have to wait 566 days, a year-and-a-half, for basic counselling. For specialized services like in-home care that number jumps to an average wait time of 737 days.
The dire situation has been worse as more young children and youth are suffering symptoms of depression or anxiety due to COVID-19.
Safe needle disposal sites like the one above have been seen around Brampton and Mississauga.
(Isaac Callan/The Pointer)
If the New Democrats were to form government they would declare a public health emergency and commit to working with all governments and agencies to end the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction.
“We’ll work with the provinces and health professionals to create a safe supply of medically regulated alternatives to toxic street drugs, support overdose prevention sites and expand access to treatment on demand for people struggling with addiction,” the NDP pledge in the party platform.
It also promises to launch investigations into large drug companies who may have played a key role in fuelling the opioid crisis.
For mental health support, the NDP plans on covering costs of counselling and other services related to mental health under a health care system that covers people “head to toe.”
There are few funding details in the platform, with little idea for voters about how much the NDP promises will cost taxpayers. There are also few details outlining exactly how the party’s healthcare commitments would be met, in the complex dynamic of delivery within each province that controls its own healthcare system.
Instead, the NDP platform offers broad statements about the need to improve various areas of care in Canada, without offering specifics and nuanced policy language to illustrate that Singh and his team know how to achieve what they claim to do, if elected.
Because of zoning and building trends in Mississauga and Brampton, the region continues to attract large numbers of immigrants looking for affordable housing. Many also settle in the area due to its proximity to Pearson International Airport and communities that have already established themselves, serving as a welcoming landing pad for others who arrive in Canada.
According to the 2016 census, 381,730 Mississaugans came to Canada as immigrants, compared to 320,750 born in the country. Similarly, Census data show Brampton had 308,790 immigrant residents, while 272,365 Brampton residents at the time were born in Canada.
Moving to Canada and becoming a citizen is a lengthy process. Many of those who reside in Peel have family members overseas who are trying to gain access to immigration and join the rest of their family. A lottery system for family-category immigrations involves many hoops to be jumped through and has created a backlog of applications.
“New Democrats will end the unfair cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents, and take on the backlogs that are keeping families apart,” the NDP platform reads.
While the NDP platform does not offer details of annual immigration targets under each category (economic, family and refugee) it promises an immigration policy that meets the needs of the labour force and recognizes people’s experiences and ties to Canada.
Again, it’s unclear why the platform does not provide details, such as the exact number of immigrants under each category that would be allowed entry to Canada each year, if the NDP are elected. There are also no details about commitments to specific family-category programs and levels, to assure Peel residents that their immigration priorities will be met.
Racism and Crime
Almost two-thirds of Mississauga and Brampton residents are visible minorities, leaving issues of racial profiling and systemic discrimination top of mind for many who experience the devastating economic and social effects of this harm on a daily basis.
Anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and other forms of discrimination against specific groups in Peel continue to draw attention, particularly in regard to policing, education and the courts.
In 2020, Peel police reported 93 hate-motivated crimes, seven were hate crimes against the Muslim community, the same number for 2019; PRP also reported 167 hate-motivated incidents, which are not as severe, in 2020, while research shows the vast majority of racist acts go unreported.
Online hate speech also disproportionately affects Muslim communities, while Black residents have force used against them by Peel police at three times the rate compared to others.
Rallies erupted worldwide in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer.
(The Pointer files)
The NDP address online hate, discrimination and specifically police reform aimed at dismantling systemic racism.
The platform promises to ban “street checks” (commonly known as carding) by the RCMP and work with other local police organizations to end the practice completely. Additionally, the NDP promise a “zero-tolerance” policy for inappropriate use of force by police, making all officers take de-escalation training and cross-cultural workshops.
“It’s time for the federal government to tackle white supremacism, terrorism and the growing threat of hate crimes targeting communities in Canada,” the platform reads. “We will begin work immediately to ensure that all major cities have dedicated hate crime units within local police forces, and to convene a national working group to counter online hate.”
It’s unclear how a federal NDP government would exercise authority over local and provincial police forces that do not operate under Ottawa’s governance.
The lack of specifics to explain the party’s vague commitments across its election platform document leave many questions about what policy and legislative change would actually look like under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh.
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