Suzanne MacNeil

Apr 202015

Originally published in the Chronicle Herald by James Hutt, on behalf of signatories listed below this article. James is coordinator for the Nova Scotia Citizens’ Healthcare Network and a member of Solidarity Halifax.

psephc_all_sans_serif_arrowed1Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine recently announced plans to seriously consider opening home care and support services to competitive bidding.

This would allow private, for-profit corporations to bid on contracts currently provided by government and not-for-profit agencies. This competitive bidding process will award home-care contracts based on the lowest bid, not on who will provide the best quality of care.

To date, Mr. Glavine has refused to hold consultations or allow for public input. Seniors’ care is too important to leave to partisan political interest.

In response, the Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network is hosting a series of town hall meetings across the province. The next three will be in Sydney on April 21, in Amherst on April 30, and in Halifax on May 4. Details can be found online at

We are deeply concerned by this move. The wait list for home care in Nova Scotia has been rapidly expanding. Over a six-month period in 2014, the wait list increased by 80 per cent, from 422 to 760 patients needing care. With the oldest population in the country, and some of the highest rates of chronic illness, this trend is sure to continue.

Ontario provides a warning for competitive bidding. Ontario opened its home-care system to private bidders in the mid-1990s. Private transnational corporations came in and underbid charities and non-profit providers with deep roots in communities. After winning contracts, they reduced home visits to 30- or 60-minute “products,” and added to the number of clients whom workers see. The amount of time allotted for travel between patients decreased, too, often forcing health workers to choose between leaving early and working without pay.

The drive for profit does not end with limiting services and care. Private companies in Ontario are known to “upsell” care to patients, pushing them to buy unnecessary features and services with extra out-of-pocket payments. This has become such a problem that Ontario’s auditor general has stressed the need for consumer protection to prevent companies from taking advantage of patients.

Contracting out of home care is proven to increase worker turnover, meaning patients will have little continuity of caregivers entering their home. After winning contracts, corporations made jobs more casual and precarious while reducing wages and benefits. Predictably, this created high rates of turnover and severe shortages in health workers.

Patients need to feel familiar with the nurses and care workers entering their homes, confident that they know their individual needs, medications and routines.

Yet the opposite has happened. Ontario has a turnover rate of home-care workers of 57 per cent per year. Across Canada, not-for-profit agencies with unionized staff offer the most consistency for patients. Turnover for unionized home-care workers is 15 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for non-unionized, and 50 per cent with non-unionized, for-profit firms.

The combination of short supplies of health workers and limited competition of providers, especially in rural areas, resulted in higher bids for home-care contracts and increased inefficiency. The system is riddled with such redundancy that administration costs are estimated at 30 per cent.

It is not surprising, then, that in 2010 Ontario’s auditor general rebuked that province’s home-care system for being “inequitable, insufficient, and ineffectively measured and managed.” Since then, there have been two moratoriums on competitive bidding.

Nova Scotia already has a shortage of health-care providers. Nurses and home support workers will not remain in an industry where their wages are threatened and their employment is precarious, particularly when they can readily find employment in the acute and long-term care sectors, as well as out of province.

Our seniors and chronically ill deserve better. They are now receiving care at home that at one time could only be delivered in a hospital setting. They deserve the same guarantees as hospital patients — high quality care, accessible to all.

We’re calling for the government to reverse moves to privatize home care, and to instead maintain a publicly funded, not-for profit system, which should provide home-care services at little or no cost to patients and their families.

Add your voice and support our seniors and chronically ill. Sign the petition online: and join us May 6 in a provincewide day of action.

Submitted by James Hutt, Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network on behalf of fellow signatories:
Adrienne Silnicki, Canadian Health Coalition
Christine Saulnier, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives;
Pamela Harrison, Transition House Association of Nova Scotia
Charity Fraser and Jeanne Fay, Second Story Women’s Centre, Bridgewater
Louise Smith MacDonald, Every Woman’s Centre, Sydney
Bernadette MacDonald, Tri-County Women’s Centre, Yarmouth
Stella Lord, Community Society to End Poverty
Angela Giles, Council of Canadians
Rick Clarke, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
Janet Hazelton, Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union
Joan Jessome, NSGEU
Danny Cavanagh, CUPE Nova Scotia
Jeannie Baldwin, PSAC
Loretta Melanson, Services Employees International Union – Local 2, Branch N.S.
Kyle Buott, Halifax Dartmouth District Labour Council.

Apr 172015

By Solidarity Halifax members Sébastien Labelle and Kyle Buott, originally published in the Halifax Media Co-op.

Billionaire fishmonger John Risley is all for provincial government handouts, when he gets them. [Photo:]

Billionaire fishmonger John Risley is all for provincial government handouts, when he gets them. [Photo:]

Yesterday, John Risley came out in support of the Liberals’ cuts to the arts in the form of the Film Tax Credit. John Risley is the owner of Clearwater Seafood and a member of one of the four richest families in Nova Scotia.

There are four billionaire families in this province: the Sobeys, the Braggs, the Jodreys, and the Risleys. These families constitute the very top of the 1% in Nova Scotia. Each of them has a business empire in our province, and combined they own major stakes in grocery stores, frozen food, vegetables, blueberries, telecommunications, forestry, investment portfolios, paper products, commercial and residential property, hotels, catering, restaurants, health care, recycling, pharmacies, shopping malls, gas stations, convenience stores, food supplements, fisheries, lobster, and much more.

The portion of the Film Tax Credit the Liberals are planning to cut is a wage support for artists. As a result of this wage support, the film industry hires artists at a decent wage. Film workers also have one of the highest levels of unionization in the private sector through unions of actors, film technicians, musicians and directors (ACTRA, IATSE, CFM, and the Director’s Guild).

If cuts to the Film Tax Credit go through, this will lead to very little filming being done in Nova Scotia, and the filming left will offer increasingly precarious work with low wages and few benefits.

Of course, Risley’s support for cuts to funding for arts and culture, specifically cultural workers’ wages, is not surprising. What is surprising is that he made those comments publicly because he has personally benefited from government tax credits for himself and his businesses.

The 1% always support cutting funding to social programmes like health, education, and the arts. This is because they have been pushing governments for the past 40 years to cut taxes on the rich and corporations, and public spending on social programmes requires those tax revenues. For decades, the 1% have been very successful, behind closed doors, in convincing governments to cut their taxes.

In the early 1970s taxes on the rich were much higher, hitting 70% in combined federal and provincial income taxes at one point. Corporate taxes were also much higher, at 52% in combined federal and provincial corporate taxes for the largest companies. Today taxes on the 1% have dropped to about 40% for income taxes, and corporate taxes have dropped to 31% in combined federal and provincial rates.

Our province is not broke and the debt is not out of control. We are not Greece. We are not Detroit. Our economy today produces three times as much wealth as it did in the 1970s. The problem is that the vast majority of us have not seen any of that wealth in our pockets. Instead it has gone into the pockets of the 1%. People like John Risley.

Instead of cutting the Film Tax Credit, we should raise taxes on the rich and large corporations. This would allow us to fund health care, education, social assistance, environmental programmes, culture, and more.

There is plenty of money in Nova Scotia, and across the country. The problem is that this money, produced by our work, only benefits a tiny number of people.


Sebastien Labelle is Vice President of Culture and Mayworks at the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council and a member of ACTRA.

Kyle Buott is the President of the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council and a member of UNIFOR.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.