A complicated story

I’m going to ask you to do something a bit hard: to recognize that in an argument, both parties can be wrong.

This week, some community members started organizing against the supportive housing LOFT announced on Church Street. They put flyers on street posts and in mailboxes (including my own).

The flyers said that “crime, drugs, theft, property damage, low income, [and] prostitution” are problems in the community—and that “the former Humber River Regional hospital is turning 5 houses on Church St. into rooming/halfway houses for profit”.

As far as I can tell, little of that is accurate. They’re not going to be “rooming” (for profit) or “halfway houses” (for former criminals). They are “supportive housing for outgoing patients facing mental health challenges”, according to Debora Jesus, from LOFT.

Nor are they likely for profit. They are owned by the hospital, and LOFT is a charity, not a business. I’m not a lawyer, but this seems impossible. (And I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Weston has a large problem with petty crime. I don’t think so.)

But LOFT and the HRH don’t come out of this blameless.

I don’t think they did enough consultation, or sought opinions from far enough around the community.

I’m far from a good barometer, but I do try to keep attuned to what’s going on in Weston. I didn’t hear about LOFT’s “information session” (notably, not a consultation) until after it had passed.

I wasn’t the only one. Several members of the Weston Village Neighbours group didn’t know about it, and MPP Faisal Hassan wrote a letter to the CEO of LOFT saying he would have hoped to have been included. He wasn’t.

He also wrote “I … urge you to have broad community consultations and to involve local residents and elected officials such as myself.”

LOFT, for their part, says that they met with the WVRA and Frances Nunziata, and circulated flyers in a 3-block radius.

They also say, however, that “there are no further in-person meetings planned”.

This sort of stuff isn’t rocket science. I’m in favour of supportive housing, but LOFT should have known—or been told—that Weston gets quite enough “information” and not enough consultation from developers, Metrolinx, and, yes, the Humber River Regional Hospital. (Which announced years ago that they would be selling the property until, whoops, community members told them that they legally couldn’t.)

Faisal Hassan responds

Faisal Hassan, our MPP, generously took the time to respond to my recent post about long-term care home policy. I’ve reprinted his response fully below, with his permission.


Dear Mr. Norman,

I read with interest your column of October 18th entitled “Hassan calls for socialized elder care”. Your characterization of this as “gob-smackingly terrible idea” I take issue with.

Having spoken to hundreds of Long Term Care workers and families with elderly in Long Term Care and Retirement Homes, I can say with confidence that the for profit system is broken and the recent COVID-19 statistics more than back up that position.

It is a fact that for profit LTC deaths are at a greater number than that in public LTC.

The fact that the Canadian Military and the Red Cross had to take over many for profit facilities to assist in controlling Covid is a symptom of a deep problem.

Many personal support workers and others that work in LTC have spoken of having to work two and three part-time jobs to cobble together a full time wage.

The for profit sector thrives on part-time no benefits labour in order to keep their costs low and their shareholders happy.

We have heard countless stories of short staffing at even the most expensive of LTC and Retirement facilities. When profit is the motive, stories such as staff being told not to change a seniors brief until a certain level is reached are the horrifying results of watching the bottom line.

Taxpayers already are on the hook for LTC and Retirement as some staffing is paid from that “envelope”, I’m sure you are aware of for profit facilities having beds built and pandemic pay from the province to the private operator directly.

The NDP believes in public and non-profit home and long term care and have developed a complete plan to make that happen.

Our seniors deserve better than being warehoused in institution-like facilities where corners are cut when it comes to staffing and care in order to make greater profits for the private operator.

Conservatives and Liberals have frozen budgets, cut inspections and blocked public enquiries.

Our hospital health care system is public and I’m sure you wouldn’t prefer the American style for profit health care system where care is dependent on ability to pay.

Keeping public dollars in a public home care and long term care system only makes sense and it provides seniors with the protections they so deeply deserve.

I am happy to discuss this further with you at any time.

Sincerely,

Faisal Hassan