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Singh calls on Trudeau to 'show some leadership' on long-term care
OTTAWA -- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is imploring the prime minister to exercise the powers within the federal government’s scope to help provinces tackle the crisis at long-term care homes.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period with host Evan Solomon, Singh said he’s been looking to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to "show some leadership" on national measures to improve conditions in long-term care facilities, following two bombshell reports by the military exposing serious care concerns in select Ontario and Quebec facilities.
"First off, the federal government can increase funding to long-term care. The health transfers over the decades have been going downwards, have reduced to the point that what used to be 50-50 is now 80-20," said Singh during the interview airing Sunday.
"We can increase health-care transfers, and we can ensure that long-term care is rolled under the same principles as the Canada Health Act to ensure we’re getting quality care for seniors."
Trudeau and his cabinet have so far underscored their support for provinces more generally, particularly during the pandemic, but haven’t specified how they plan to move forward on long-term care.
"We will as a federal government ensure that we are there to support the provinces as they work to regain control over seniors’ care in their jurisdiction," said Trudeau during his daily press briefing on Friday.
But earlier this week he noted his government is "not taking anything off the table."
Trudeau stressed that the military presence in Ontario and Quebec is only a short-term solution.
Under Operation Laser, more than 1,600 Canadian Armed Forces members have been deployed to facilities in both provinces to help fill gaps from staffing shortages. The reports issued this week detail inadequate use of personal protective equipment, a disregard for patient hygiene, and caution instances of emotional and physical abuse.
Singh said the accounts were "appalling" and took issue with Trudeau’s approach thus far to follow the lead of provinces.
"It’s not enough for the federal government to throw up its hands and make excuses, it’s necessary for the federal government to play a role, to call for things," he said. "To say that they’re willing to establish some national standards of care guarantees."
Experts weigh in
In another interview on CTV’s Question Period, Sharleen Stewart, the president of Services Employees International Union Healthcare told Evan Solomon that the only surprising element to the military reports was the government’s reaction to it.
"We’ve been calling on the alarm bells for decades on this and just recently over the past couple of months with the pandemic, constantly we’ve been asking, announcing, and reporting what we were hearing in real time off the front lines that our members were reporting to us. So for any decision-maker or politician to say that they were surprised is factually not true."
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was visibly emotional on Tuesday while outlining the findings of the report, claiming he wasn’t aware of the severity of the issue. While he reaffirmed the “buck stops with me” in repairing the system, he also said he didn’t create the problem but inherited it.
"The reports they provided us were heartbreaking, they were horrific, it's shocking that this can happen here in Canada. It's gut-wrenching and reading those reports was the hardest thing I've done as premier," Ford told reporters.
Stewart echoed Singh’s sentiments that the federal government must increase funding on health care to the provinces with clear directives about allocation of spending.
"There has to be accountability to any money transferred from anybody’s hands, whether it be federal money to the provinces or provinces to those homes," she said.
She also said an independent inquiry – chaired by a judge able to subpoena witnesses – is desperately needed and that Canada must put an end to privately-owned facilities, who’s priorities are based more on "paying out shareholders rather than making sure that the proper and adequate care is given."