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Protection of Seniors

Once again the provincial government has promised to look at legislation that will better protect Ontario’s seniors, this may or may not include all retirement homes having working fire sprinklers regardless of the age of the building. Present legislation requires that a sprinkler system is installed in any residence built after 1997, however those built prior to that date are not affected and do not require sprinklers. MPP Gerry Phillips the minister responsible for seniors stated that the government is drafting legislation that will ensure all retirement homes are regulated and that their 41,000 residents are informed in clear language what their home provides. However, he remained vague when asked if sprinkler legislation will be included in the upcoming changes. "Right now the sprinklers are obviously regulated and overseen by the Ministry of Community Safety. We're looking at how best to deal with that in the legislation," he said in an interview. He then added "We're going to address safety in the legislation ... We'll put it where it's most appropriately handled."


The unclear response by the minister doesn’t generate hope in the fire service that sprinklers will be mandated anytime soon, this despite promises by the current Liberal government in 2006 that this would be the case. Obviously pressure from the operators of privately run retirement homes is swaying the government not to act in favour of legislation and subsequently increasing the safety of seniors. Since 1980 there have been 44 seniors killed from fires in retirement homes, fortunately the newer homes provide better protection, however the existing homes without sprinklers still put many seniors at risk.


Politics and campaigning is the root of the problem with the safety of seniors, the topic just doesn’t garner any votes. Politicians find that supporting everyday kindergarten is much more likely to turn into votes rather than protecting seniors. Let’s face it, families who end up saving money on daycare are strong supporters of this policy, even though the cost to the public for this initiative has been astronomical. Schools have had extensions built and more staff has been hired to deal with the additional children. However most families that have been affected only comment about how great this plan is because they no longer have to pay for daycare, not because they feel their children will be better educated. Couldn’t a drop of this money have been used to help the operators of retirement homes better protect a vulnerable sector of our society? After all, our parents did everything they could to protect us growing up, shouldn’t we return the favour now that the shoe is on the other foot?

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