MPP Wayne Gates has some tough decisions ahead.
He told The Local Monday if asked, he will consider the NDP’s leadership role.
His party needs someone at the helm with a strong voice, and someone who cares, he says. “I have a strong voice, and I care.”
“Everywhere I go people are asking me, and encouraging me,” he says, and if the time comes to make a decision, he will sit down and talk about it with his wife and family, and his staff.
The difficulty would be leaving his new portfolio within the NDP caucus, which makes him the party’s leading voice on long-term care, homecare and retirement homes as the Official Opposition critic, and involves issues that are close to his heart — issues that existed long before the pandemic came along. COVID highlighted how badly the system is broken, especially once the military marched into long-term care homes and wrote a report of the horrors they found inside, he says. He wants to see that system fixed, and has some solutions that could be implemented fairly quickly.
His riding of Niagara Falls, which includes Niagara-on-the-Lake, has one of the highest percentages of seniors in the province, and like everywhere else in the province, is severely understaffed in all areas of healthcare.
He says he want to work with all parties to ensure seniors are treated with dignity and respect in long-term care, and for those who are able, that they are given what they need to stay home.
One of the first things he would like to see changed quickly is for the current long-term care minister, Paul Calandra, to have that portfolio as a full-time, dedicated job. Calandra was also appointed Government House Leader, and Gates said he will ask him to talk to Premier Doug Ford about making the job of long-term care full-time.
Gates says he will use his voice to ensure the government can’t ignore the needs of seniors, and will propose solutions.
“We’ll work with them to fix it. We won’t let them ignore it anymore. Our goal is to propose a system of seniors care that is driven by the need in our communities, not the profits of corporations,” says Gates, who wants to see private long-term care homes eliminated. “Every dollar should toward the care of seniors, not for profit to shareholders.”
“In my community,” he continued, “we have thousands of seniors who need supports to stay in their homes as long as they can. Once they need care, they need to know the care will be there for them. We’re going to make sure those supports are there when they need them here in Niagara, and across Ontario,” said Gates.
Gates said his first priority is to see the repeal of Bill 124, which pegs nurses’ and other healthcare workers’ salary increases at one percent, with an inflation rate that will likely soon hit eight per cent. That would be showing a sign of respect for healthcare workers, would raise their morale, and would encourage them to stay in their jobs, and it’s something that could be done quickly.
It would be hard to leave that role to take on the party leadership, he says.
“I absolutely love my riding. I love the people of my riding.”
Taking on the responsibility of leadership would take a lot of energy, he says.
But Gates is known for his energy, and for a having a strong voice, and as he says, “that’s what the province needs.”