SURREY, B.C. — Elders living in long-term care in British Columbia deserve rooms of their own, says NDP Leader John Horgan, who promised Wednesday to build state-of-the-art facilities over the next decade.

Horgan said the New Democrats, if elected on Oct. 24, will spend $1.4 billion over 10 years to revamp elder care facilities and their administration after the COVID-19 pandemic showed vulnerabilities in the system.

Horgan said the complete details of the plan will be contained in the NDP’s election platform to be released in the coming days. But at a campaign stop in Surrey, he said workers can expect fair wages and families will see more comfort for their loved ones.

The NDP will also include new requirements to ensure private facility operators deliver proper care and are accountable for the public dollars they receive, he said.

“I believe seniors in their later years should have the dignity of one room with just them in it,” said Horgan. “That’s a goal we’re going to set and it’s going to take us some time to make up for the backlog because of Liberal neglect, but I believe that’s a cause worth fighting for.”

He said former Liberal government policies on staffing and administration for long-term care facilities took their toll on the elderly and their families and the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the limitations with tragic results.

“It led to profound impacts that came home to roost during COVID-19,” Horgan said. “The outbreaks in seniors care facilities at the beginning of the pandemic were a direct result of B.C. Liberal choices.”

Many of the 234 COVID-19 deaths in the province were residents who lived in seniors care homes.

Horgan said prior to the NDP forming government, staff turnover at such facilities was constant, workers were forced to accept wage cuts and many took jobs at more than one facility to make ends meet.

The NDP raised care-worker wages last spring and implemented a single-site policy to ensure workers stayed at one facility during the pandemic, he said.

Horgan said care workers will receive decent wages under the new NDP plan.

Campaigning in Port Moody, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said long-term care workers need proper compensation, but added he’s skeptical of NDP promises because they turn out to be more dream than reality.

“When we hear about NDP visions, we think of all kinds of good visions they’ve had like 114,000 housing units that are nowhere to be seen, like $10-a-day daycare that is a pilot project and that was just a slogan,” said Wilkinson.

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the issues facing B.C.’s elderly deserve more attention from government than pledges for programs that tinker around the edges of their needs.

“We need to be serious about how we change the system so that the people in long-term care homes are living with the love, the respect, the dignity that they deserve at that time in their lives,” she said.

Furstenau said the Greens will release the party’s long-term care strategy Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press