Who is Eric Hoskins anyways?

Meet Doctor Eric Hoskins. He is Ontario’s new Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. He is a doctor and a Rhodes Scholar who has spent most of his life helping those who are less fortunate.

But what can SEIU Members and healthcare workers expect from him as health minister?

Judging just by his past work experience, Eric is probably more likely to focus on improving healthcare services rather than cutting care.

That’s because for most of his career, he has been helping children in war-torn areas throughout the world. From 1987 to 1990 he lived and worked in Sudan providing humanitarian and medical relief to Ethiopian refugees. But Sudan isn’t the only place he has worked. His work has touched the lives of people living in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Burundi.

He also founded War Child Canada, an organization that provides support for children and their families in war-torn areas throughout the world. War Child provides humanitarian programs such as education, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, psychosocial rehabilitation, upholding the rights of children, healthcare and work training. The organization has also spread awareness of the issues facing war-affected children.

His heart seems to be in the right place.

Hoskins has been given several awards for his work overseas. In 2008, he was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada. He has also received the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross, and has been awarded the United Nations Lester B. Pearson Peace Medal.

He turned his attention to politics and won a seat in a Toronto by-election in 2009. He began to rise rapidly within the Liberal Party when he became Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, less than a year after he was elected. In 2011 he ran for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party. Even though he didn’t win, he backed Kathleen Wynne, who won the leadership and is currently Ontario’s premier.

Even though Eric has spent most of his career helping those who are less fortunate, SEIU members need to continue to remind him about investing in our public healthcare system that is easily accessible to all.

There is already talk within Liberal circles about putting the brakes on wages. Some high ranking Liberal officials have said there won’t be any new money for wage increases for anyone on the public payroll.

“Our budget was very clear that there’s no more money for wage increases. Unions knew that.

The official added it’s not going to be all “lollipops and rainbows.”

SEIU will concede this point: SEIU Members didn’t volunteer hours of their time, energy, and resources talking to thousands of voters across Ontario for lollipops and rainbows. They did it to protect our healthcare system, improve working conditions for healthcare workers, and ensure the government delivers its promise to increase PSWs minimum wage to $16.50 an hour. That’s why they canvassed for the Liberal Party.

Judging by his past experience, Eric will probably make a good Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. But together, we have to keep on reminding him to fulfill his government’s promises.





Summertime fine!

There’s just something about the heat of the summer that puts me in a better mood. Windows down with the music up, driving around the city is one of my favourite things to do… even with the ridiculous price of gas. Over the past few weekends, I’ve tried my best to enjoy all that Toronto has to offer in the summer. From watching World Cup games at Cabana Pool Bar to enjoying a Blue Jay game with the dome open, weekends in the summer are meant for living in the sunshine.

SEIU Healthcare has always delivered memorable summertime events; feel free to take a trip down memory lane via our YouTube channel to relive some of how we’ve spent the days of summer’s past. The late Jack Layton marched down lakeshore to take part in SEIU’s float for Toronto Carnival (formerly known as Caribana), his wife (current Toronto mayoral candidate) Olivia Chow jumping and waving to the crowd, by his side the entire time. Pictures on our Flickr page from last year’s Caribbean BBQ show Olivia Chow having a great time talking to SEIU members about real issues within the community, while enjoying a beautiful summer day with her family, enjoying the finest jerk chicken.   

 This year we’ve taken things in a new direction having our annual event at Wild Water Kingdom, renamed to “Summer Splash”. Construction at High Park caused the shift, but the overall response from the members has been astounding and we are now fully booked for the event! I look forward to seeing everyone at the water park on Saturday July 26th– just make sure you’re ready to get a little bit wet!

Last year I had the pleasure of attending a Boat Cruise around Toronto Harbour after being invited to a member organized event courtesy Baycrest Hospital . I’m always amazed at the network of people that our members are connected with; SEIU is so fortunate to have dedicated individuals in the community to help bring people together for positive events. I can’t wait to do it again this year- I’ll see you on the water Baycrest members!

The summer truly is my favourite season of the year and certainly one of the busiest here at SEIU Healthcare. Stay connected to us via Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Flickr and our website at www.seiuhealthcare.ca to find out all the latest happenings!


Welcoming Ontario’s new Minister of Health

Yesterday, after the whirlwind of the provincial election, Premier Wynne named her cabinet Ministers—-the prestigious jobs responsible for running our province’s most important programs and services, while managing budgets.

The healthcare portfolio is headed in a new direction. Former Minister of Health Deb Matthews, who was instrumental in getting homecare raises in this year’s budget and raising the profile of personal support workers, is taking on a new role with the Treasury Board.

To remember Deb Matthews’ work on homecare, watch her walk a day on the job with SEIU Healthcare member Juliette:

Dr. Eric Hoskins is the new Minister of Health. This has to be one of the most difficult positions in government because healthcare gets the most funding, but also has many challenges that plague the sector. People’s lives and jobs are at stake, so there is a lot of pressure.

Here is hoping that with his background and experience as a medical doctor and international humanitarian, Dr. Hoskins works with the experts to usher in a new era of progress in healthcare. As a labour union SEIU Healthcare will be in contact with him to improve the lives of healthcare workers, especially through the “Sweet $16” campaign for all homecare workers.

Deb Matthews did the work of getting the funds committed directly for wage increases because she knew homecare personal support worker compensation is much below what it should be, and what workers are able to get through traditional bargaining. Dr. Hoskins must now follow through on these promises as soon as parliament returns (date to be announced).


Unions CAN win elections!

The Conservatives “faced a major backlash from the province’s trade unions in response to their plan to eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs.” – CBC


“If the public sector unions mount just as aggressive an anti-Harper campaign as they did an anti-Hudak campaign, they need to be ready to respond” – iPolitics

It seems that the Ontario election on June 12th proved that Canadian unions are stronger than we ever thought.

What we saw on June 12 was an amazing social movement that came together to elect a government who promised to protect the interests of working people as well as the important government services we rely on, such as healthcare and education.

From the outset, the choice was clear. If we couldn’t elect the Liberals or the NDP, we would end up with Tim Hudak’s Conservatives, who vowed to weaken the power unions have to improve people’s working lives.

This social movement, consisting of dozens of labour unions across Ontario, launched a major advertising campaign outlining Hudak’s anti-union agenda. Along with SEIU Healthcare, unions representing government employees, teachers, construction workers, trades people, private sector employees, and many others were part of the coalition. Even the union representing Ontario’s police officers, who usually stays neutral in elections, took a stand against Hudak. The labour movement wanted Ontarians to know about the threat Hudak’s conservatives posed to all Ontarians.

But it wasn’t just commercials on TV, radio and social media that swayed people’s hearts and minds. Unions such as SEIU Healthcare launched a large ground campaign that sent members to a dozen key target ridings throughout the province. It was their job to inform fellow SEIU members about the dangers of a Tim Hudak government.

They highlighted Tim Hudak’s plans to freeze healthcare workers’ wages, dismantle defined pension benefit plans, fire 100,000 public sector employees, and outsource healthcare jobs to the lowest bidder. The ground campaign was an overwhelming success. The vast majority of SEIU members who were contacted said they were voting for either the Liberal or NDP candidate in their riding. They began to understand that voting for Hudak was a vote against healthcare and against working people.

Many have recognized that the labour movement played an important role in defeating Tim Hudak’s conservatives, showing that the labour movement is very much alive and well in our Province!


Apathy and Overdose: a free event and a huge problem

A group of Toronto-based organizations and individuals concerned with drug use and human rights are hosting a free event June 18 on naloxone and how to stop drug overdose in time to save a life. It should be part of any basic first aid training.

Event organizers are calling accidental drug overdose a major health crisis. The event notice cites Andre Picard, health reporter for the Globe and Mail, from April 14 of this year:

“The people using and abusing opioids (and dying as a result) are not all stereotypical ‘junkies’ shooting up in alleys. They are also grandmothers who take too many painkillers, labourers who get addicted after treatment for a back injury, teenagers who raid their parents’ medicine cabinet, kids who mistake pills for candy and recreational users who can be anyone from Bay Street brokers to squeegee kids.” 

The attention Picard gave the issue is notable because for all the unnecessary deaths that it causes, accidental overdose by opioids (including heroin and prescription painkillers) does not get much press. It’s one of those issues towards which many feel apathy (hence the title of the knowledge-sharing event and this blog post): it’s not flashy, it’s not sexy, and worse, it often affects marginalized populations that more privileged groups don’t want to think too much about.

A well-known CNN medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been raising awareness about the dangers of accidental overdoses for years. He did a jarring TV report on naloxone, showing a raw video of a group of people saving their friend’s life after she overdoses.

Naloxone saves lives. It’s what Toronto health and drug rights advocates are pushing to be more readily available in Canada. Friends, family, and health professionals need to have access to it. Naloxone is a non-addictive substance but is currently only available by prescription.

Anyone who has ever lost or come close to losing a loved one to drugs, whether illegal or legal, and no matter the level of use or addiction, understands the urgent need to do something. Unfortunately, it’s already too late for many who could have been saved. So kudos to those who work tirelessly to bring this unpopular subject to the public eye and fighting for what’s right.



How the Harris years changed one young life

Kristof is a Ward Clerk on a surgical floor at Mount Sinai’s Hospital in Toronto. He’s in his 30s, soft-spoken, polite. His Twitter page is full of union activity and photos of “strong women” on Equal Pay Day.

The job path he took wasn’t his first choice.

At the young age of 18, Kristof was the sole provider and caregiver for his elderly father. That time was the 1990s, and Mike Harris’s Progressive Conservative government was changing Ontario’s social programs drastically.

“Our problems during the Harris years started when I was in high school and there was a month-long strike over cuts,” says Kristof, who lived in Thorncliffe Park, Toronto. He and his dad Ferenc had immigrated to Canada from Hungary in the 1980s.

Ferenc’s condition worsened just as Kristof was getting ready for college. “We had no ability to navigate the system. I remember talking to a social worker about our situation, and her saying ‘because of the changes in the system, our hands are tied’.”

Unable to access student loans or other social supports to help the small family get by, Kristof had no choice but to quit his college program in Police Foundations and look for full-time work.

“For my dad’s age, he was fairly independent, but physically and emotionally, he needed help,” explains Kristof. He was not comfortable with his dad living in a nursing home. “It was a hard decision but it was the most ethical decision to make at the time.”

Kristof got a part-time job at Food Basics and started volunteering in the ICU at Mount Sinai hospital, which eventually led to being hired to work in a hospital, with union wages that lifted him and his father out of poverty.

“As a volunteer in the healthcare system in the 90s I saw the dilapidated equipment, I heard the stories from nurses about getting fired and rehired with different wages, about hospitals being shut down,” recalls Kristof.

Kristof’s dad died in 2008, having spent his last years comfortable and safe in their apartment. But Kristof doesn’t want anyone in Ontario to have to make the same sacrifices, and is worried about the provincial election.

“Hudak is Harris on steroids,” he says. “There is no doubt that if given the chance, he would enact the most controversial legislation early in his mandate. Tomorrow is basically a referendum:  are we for Tim Hudak and the low-wage economy where we’re on our own, or are we for a society where we’re all in it together?”


Looking for a leader, not a dinner guest

For anyone who read The Star’s profile on Tim Hudak this morning and felt uneasy, you’re not alone.

Painted as the ‘boy next door’, within the first few paragraphs of this profile (which reads like a feel-good script) we are handed out a prediction that “if [Hudak] wins, voters are going to love him.”  This opinion is coming from Conservative funder and business lawyer, Ralph Lean.  Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t take political opinions from someone who regularly offers legal advice to and represents millionaires. I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Lean and I would probably not ‘love’ the same type of leader. And so, it’s beyond me why The Star chooses to begin their profile on Hudak with such a blatant bias.  Thank you for your opinion, Mr. Ralph Lean. I will now give you mine.

The piece from this morning makes me uneasy, because it creates a diversion. This type of profiling is dangerous because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside- kind of like how I feel when I watch Brad Pitt on the big screen. But I’m not electing Brad to be my next Premier. That would be distracting- just like this piece from the Star. Forcing me to read about what a good and “likeable” guy Hudak is, how he used to play street hockey after school and how he grew up in a small town, although perhaps factual , are in reality distractions.

After all, we are not inviting Hudak over for a social gathering; we’re deciding whether he is fit to be our next Premier. We’re not asking him to organize our weekend picnic, but rather organize systems that will drastically and immediately affect our lives. To many people, that means we need someone who is committed to helping others. Now who are these ‘others’ that I refer to? This is perhaps where, Mr. Ralph Lean and I might disagree- or perhaps not…

The type of leader we should be looking for is one who is committed to helping those who are the most vulnerable. In my humble opinion, that means our parents & grandparents, our toddlers, our sick and our poor. I’ll make those sweeping categorizations for the time being.

Now if you agree with my basic premise, that is, if you believe that a good leader ought to serve her most vulnerable populations, then please keep reading. If you don’t, you’re welcome to read, and learn something.

I’m sure Hudak is a good father, husband, neighbour and person. I’m sure if I met him, I would find him very likable. In fact, please don’t try and sell Tim Hudak based on a fact that he’s a “good guy” because frankly, that should be a prerequisite. I don’t want to know how many soccer games he has coached, I want to know what he is planning to do. I want to understand his policies. I want to get a sense of who inspires him and how he plans to help the most vulnerable people in our communities. Sadly, it’s only 30-something paragraphs later that we’re given a basic glimpse into this type of information. After rambling about Hudak’s likability factor, the article breezily mentions the fact that he consulted with right-wing extremists in the USA for economic advice. It also glosses over the fact that his ‘Million Jobs Plan’ is questionable and likely faulty, and that he plans to cut 100,000 civil servants.

At this crucial time, we don’t need any more distractions. We need to focus on finding a leader who is going to fight for the lowest common denominator and act as an advocate for those who have little to no voice. I don’t believe Tim Hudak is that man. Sure, he’s a nice guy. But good people don’t always make good leaders. But don’t take my word for it, read more about why millions are trying to Stop Hudak. As far as I can see,  His agenda, his platform, his slogans, convince me that he is far from helping (a) our seniors, (b) our little ones, (c) our sick and (d) our poor.