Remarks during a visit with personal support workers at the SEIU headquarters in Richmond Hill
Hello, everyone. It’s a real pleasure to be here at the SEIU headquarters in Richmond Hill with Sharleen Stewart, the president of the SEIU. It was an opportunity for me to sit down with extraordinary personal support workers and hear their stories.
We all know how important personal support workers are to our health care system, to our care system. They were there for the most vulnerable during the pandemic. They continue to be there through extremely difficult times. The challenges they’re facing is stretching them and burning them out and we need to do a better job of stepping up as governments to make sure that we’re giving them the support and respect that they need. That’s why we’ve put forward $1.7 billion towards raising their minimum rates to $25 an hour, which is pretty much the bare minimum that they’re going to be able to continue doing their job in. We also need to make sure we’re improving their working conditions. That’s why we put out a study last month on minimal conditions in long care homes across the country, because we know that working conditions dictate conditions of care and how we support the personal support workers who do this incredible work right across the country really, really matters. We also need to do better around retention and looking for retirement benefits for them as well. These are things that the federal government will be there for, but we will also be working on with the provinces and I’d actually take a moment to encourage all politicians and all different orders of government to take time to sit down with personal support workers like I got to today to hear the stories, to hear directly how much they care about the people they serve and about the grandparents of all of us that they take care of in situations that are extremely precarious and not there for them.
I was able to spend some time today in Richmond Hill with personal support workers to see how they are there to serve the most vulnerable in our society. We know how hard the pandemic has been and that it continues to be difficult for our front-line workers. I was able to hear first-hand about the challenges they are facing. That is why we’ve put forward $1.7 billion to help raise their minimum rates to $25 an hour. We’re also going to address working conditions and the opportunities they’ll have for retirement. But we need to work with the provinces on this, so I encourage all the premiers, all the different politicians from different orders of government to sit down with personal support workers to understand the real challenges they’re facing.
Over the past weeks we’ve been talking a lot about health care because two weeks ago we put forward a plan for $198 billion of investment over the next ten years in health care systems across this country, with a focus on making sure that we deliver altogether real results for Canadians and a public universal health care system.
These are things that really matter to Canadians. Canadians take pride in our health care systems, but they also know they’re not hitting the level that Canadians should and could expect from their system. So that’s why the four areas that we’re focused on investments with the provinces and improvements with the provinces are access to primary care doctors. Canadians need access to primary care doctors to make sure they’re having the right entry into our health care system, getting the primary support they need that will make huge changes and improvements in our system and the results for Canadians. We also need to do a better job of supporting and retaining and properly being there for the people who work in our health care systems. We need to do better around licensing and credential recognition. We need to do better around working conditions and support for people who are taking care of all of us at all levels within our health care systems. We need to do more, thirdly, on mental health, because we know that mental health is health.
A number of years ago, we invested $5 billion over ten years to the provinces on health care. We’ve continued to step up with investments around health care, but we know as well that health care must be woven through the rest of the health care system, sorry, mental health must be woven through the rest of the health care system because it affects everything from the workers to the patients to everyone who is supporting people going through difficult procedures. Finally, we’re there for better data and better information collection. Canadians need to be able to have confidence that their medical files are complete and accessible by the specialists or emergency room doctors they see, and we need to make sure that we’re seeing clearly the results right across the country that we’re investing in and getting better results from our health care system. So, there’s a lot to do, but there’s a lot we’re going to continue to do together, and I just really want to thank the leadership at SEIU, but also those personal support workers and all health care workers across the country for continuing to step up to be there for Canadians and we will do everything we can to be there for you, like you are there for our most vulnerable.
Two weeks ago, we also announced investments in our health care systems to improve results for Canadians, including greater access to family doctors, more support for mental health, better working conditions for everyone working in our health care system, and also better information and data on which we can build good results in our health care systems. We still have work to do, but we’re here to partner with the provinces to deliver better results for Canadians, because that’s what Canadians need and deserve.