Ontario parties vying for power in 2022 election need to address nursing shortage: ONA

Messages about being over-worked are being shared on social media while signs are popping up telling PC candidates to stay off properties. Mark McAllister speaks with nurses worried that their voices aren't being heard before the Ontario election.

By Mark McAllister and Meredith Bond

Ontario nurses have been clear about one thing since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and during the 2022 election: more needs to be done to address the nursing shortage and that starts with repealing Bill 124.

Three of the four major parties running have promised to repeal the bill that cap public sector workers’ wages at one per cent for three years, except the party who put it in place.

Bill 124 was passed in 2019 by Doug Ford’s majority government and was limited to three years, meaning it will end this year. Nurses have been rallying against the bill since it’s passing, claiming nurses are leaving bedsides in droves and Bill 124 was the final straw.

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario claimed last year that nursing vacancies in Ontario have more than quadrupled over the last five years, and there was a 56 per cent increase in vacancies over the first half of 2021.

President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), Cathryn Hoy, said their message during the campaign so far has been simple.

“We want to work with whatever government there is but we need to end the nursing shortage and until we do that, we’re going to be in trouble.”

RELATED: What is Bill 124 and how is it affecting Ontario’s nurses, public-sector workers?

Hoy tells CityNews she doesn’t believe anything will change if the Ford government is re-elected on June 2, which most polls say is likely at this point in the campaign.

“You can throw dollars out at the general public but unless you have a plan behind those dollars, then they’re meaningless,” said Hoy. “Building more hospitals, that is not the answer. We can not stuff what we have right now.”

Some nurses have even gone so far as to put signs out on their lawn, saying, “A nurse lives here. If you are canvassing for the PC party, get off my property.”

She said the NDP platform shows they are “really listening to health care professionals and they do have a plan,” while the Liberals, while they do plan on repealing Bill 124 and increasing funding for home care.

“They haven’t said whether that will be privatized or whether they will push for it to be publicly funded.”

When asked if she thinks nurses’ voices are being heard, she agreed they were, but “the public is really focusing on the Bill 124 piece and that’s only a small segment of it. “We are really pushing for public healthcare.”

A nurse who has been very active on social media under the name “Nursewithsign416,” Nancy Halupa said she isn’t sure how many people are aware of how bad the shortage is.

“I honestly don’t think the public knows unless they’ve been a patient or had a loved one and then as a whole, as a patient, they know nothing about what’s going on.”

Halupa agrees with Hoy that Ford’s promise to build hospitals, while hearing stories and reading comments about nurses constantly needed to work extra time while not being fairly compensated, is not what they want to see from a new government.

“The staffing. the ratio, the patient ratios on some units, ICU is supposed to be one-to-one, it’s called intensive care unit for a reason. There’s nurses that are doing doubles and triples … How do you give someone the proper care when you have three equally sick patients?”

Registered Critical Care Nurse, Helen Winter, said watching the nursing shortage affect the public they treat has been “painful, because it is unnecessary suffering.”

“I work in emergency and so often we’re short-staffed because so many have left the profession, especially seasoned nurses. It takes years to become a trained nurse. You don’t just graduate and know everything it’s on the job training,” explained Winter.

She said she is often doing the job of two or three nurses at a time. “Trying to save lives when you don’t have the resources, It’s so hard … it affects us all. If we don’t have health care, I don’t think people realize what that means.”

And she adds that it’s hard to expect people to do the things they do while also struggling with their pay, especially with the current government.

“I’ve seen a lot of not answering questions from Ford. I’m still waiting to see if he’s even going to talk to nurses because when he shows up at public appearances he certainly won’t take questions.”

When asked whose plan is the best for nurse, Winter said, “As a nurse, I encourage people to make their own decisions for their own well-being. And I’m not going to tell anybody who to vote for. I know strongly who I know I don’t want to vote for because we’ve seen what happens.”

What each party is promising to nurses:

Progressive Conservatives

  • Invest an additional $1 billion in home care over three years
  • Spend $142 million to recruit and retain health care workers in underserved communities
  • Reduce barriers to make it easier and quicker for foreign-credentialled health workers to begin practicing in Ontario
  • Spend $764 million to give nurses a $5,000 lump sum retention bonus
  • Spend $124.2 million over three years to modernize clinical education for nurses



  • Guarantee quick job offers for 2,000 internationally educated nurses by investing $60 million to expand the Nursing Graduate Guarantee program
  • Hire 10,000 personal support workers, give them a raise. Hire 30,000 nurses, expedite recognition of nursing credentials of 15,000 internationally trained nurses
  • Scrap Bill 124, which limits public sector compensation increases


Liberal Party

  • Raise base pay for personal support workers to $25 an hour
  • Repeal Bill 124, which limits public sector compensation increases


Green Party:

  • Increase nursing enrolments by 10 per cent a year for seven years, boost number of nurse practitioners by 50 per cent by 2030 (target 30,000 more nurses)
  • Repeal Bill 124
  • Expand family health teams, community health centres, midwifery services


Advanced voting will occur until May 28 and the general election date is June 2. You can find full coverage of the 2022 Ontario election here.

With files from Nick Westoll

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