News last week the provincial government will give more money to those in Northwestern Ontario who must travel for medical treatment warrants polite applause, but certainly not a standing ovation.
On paper, it looks good. Starting Nov. 1, people going to Toronto from Thunder Bay, for instance, would get $941.88—up from the previous $419.39.
What that simply means, though, is that the government—in its wisdom—has finally seen it fit that northern residents deserve to be compensated for round trips to major centres (less 100 km), instead of only one-way as was the case before.
Still missing, of course, is a subsidy to cover such little things as food and accommodations, not to mention to have a companion come along, that the provincial government had paid to southern Ontario residents who had to travel for medically-necessary treatment.
Northerners had long bristled over that inequity but it wasn’t until the provincial ombudsman stepped in and called it unfair that the government finally relented—four months after the fact, to boot.
Still, the government is looking to score political points in all this. “The improvements made to the Northern Health Travel Grant program exemplify our government’s continued commitment to provide quality health care to every person in Ontario,” said Health and Long-Term Care minister Tony Clement.
“Our government recognizes the unique needs of residents in the north. The enhanced [grant] will help ensure northerners can access the quality health care they deserve,” gushed Northern Development and Mines minister Dan Newman.
Unfortunately, that rings hollow after all these years, especially since the government hasn’t admitted, or won’t, that it had been wrong in the first place.
To borrow a phrase from Red Green, it was as if the government really is saying, “Okay, you caught us. We can change if we have to. We guess.”
Well, it’s a start, we guess. But only a start. All we’re getting, after all, is what we should have been getting all along.
What’s shameful is how long it took the government to realize that.