Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hinting that provinces that don’t want to work with Ottawa to improve standards in long-term care homes won’t get federal funding. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hinting that provinces that don’t want to work with Ottawa to improve standards in long-term care homes won’t get federal funding. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

No funds for provinces that don’t agree to improve long-term care standards, PM hints

He said Ottawa will help them cover the costs of those improvements

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hinting that provinces that don’t want to work with Ottawa to improve standards in long-term care homes won’t get federal funding.

In a year-end interview Wednesday with The Canadian Press, Trudeau said his government will “happily partner” with provinces and territories that want to boost standards in long-term care facilities.

And he said Ottawa will help them cover the costs of those improvements.

But he warned that provinces that don’t choose to take the federal government up on that offer will have some explaining to do to their own populations.

“The provinces that don’t choose to give their seniors the highest level of standards will be asked questions on that by the folks who are sending their moms and dads into those senior centres,” Trudeau said.

“And it will become a difficult answer for them to give.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deplorable conditions in some long-term care homes, particularly in Ontario and Quebec. Reports on conditions in the worst-hit homes have revealed appalling examples of neglect, abuse and unsanitary conditions.

Residents of long-term care facilities account for more than than 80 per cent of the COVID-19 deaths in Canada.

Delivery of health care is a provincial area of responsibility and some premiers, particularly Quebec’s Francois Legault, have strenuously objected to idea of the federal government setting national standards for long-term care facilities or setting any conditions on funding provided for health care.

The premiers have unanimously demanded that Ottawa immediately increase its annual, unconditional health transfers to provinces and territories by at least $28 billion a year, money that is sent with no strings attached.

“I don’t see what the federal government knows about nursing homes,” Legault said last week after Trudeau failed to acquiesce to the premiers’ demand during a daylong, first ministers’ video conference.

“If he wants to help with nursing homes and hospitals, he has to boost recurring funding.”

Legault’s views have been echoed by other premiers, including Ontario’s Doug Ford and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe. But premiers in the Atlantic provinces been more open to the idea of federal funding specifically tied to improving conditions in long-term care homes.

In the interview Wednesday, Trudeau appeared to signal that his government will negotiate separately with each province and territory that is willing to accept additional, targeted funding for long-term care — much as it did to target funding for mental health and home care a few years ago.

“The approach we have as a federal government is to first start looking at what the best practices are in certain jurisdictions that do have stronger standards than others,” he said.

“And work with the jurisdictions who want to, to increase their standards to the best possible level. And the federal government to be there to help them with the extra costs involved in getting up to that level … So we will happily partner and work with the provinces as we have during this pandemic.”

Trudeau acknowledged that long-term care is a provincial jurisdiction. But he said: “The dignity of elders, the safety of seniors, doesn’t really have much of a jurisdiction. Not when you talk about their lives.”

He noted that the federal government sent the military and Canadian Red Cross to help in overwhelmed long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec last spring, at the request of those provinces.

“I guess, theoretically we could have said, ‘No, it’s your area, you deal with it.’ No. The federal government is going to be there to look out for every single Canadian and that means, yes, working with the premiers.”

Trudeau said standards in long-term care vary across the country and from facility to facility within provinces.

“And I don’t think that’s right. I think every senior in this country, regardless of where they live, should feel confident that if they go into the long-term care centre that they get accepted in, down the street or across the road or on the other side of town, they don’t have to worry that ‘Oh, maybe that’s one of the bad ones’ or ‘Maybe I’m lucky enough to have gotten into one of the good ones,”’ he said.

“There needs to be a sense that in this country we ensure that every single senior gets to age in dignity and in safety and we’re not there.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Sanders was dressed for the cold weather in Penticton Friday, as he made time to check out one of the city’s iconic landmarks. (Parkers Chrysler / Facebook)
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders spotted in Penticton

Sanders seems to have developed a taste for local craft beer

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Send your letter to the editor via email to editor@pentictonwesternnews.com. Please include your first and last name, address, and phone number. (File photo)
LETTER: ‘Park your anger at the door,’ when it comes to supportive housing

Stable housing is needed for all in the community, writes Western News reader

(Pixabay photo)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines of the week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Administrative headquarters for the Regional District of Central Okanagan in Kelowna. (File photo)
Tempers fly over a pricey picnic shelter in the North Westside

Lack of detail on $121,000 shelter expenditure further incites self-govenance wishes

Big White Village on Dec. 16. (Big White photo)
11 more COVID-19 cases linked to Big White cluster

Interior Health provided an update on the cluster on Friday

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Historic poem is appropriate for new U.S. president

In 1941, Roosevelt made reference to poem by Longfellow

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘It’s incredibly upsetting’: Kelowna health care worker demands WestJet ticket refund

Kelowna woman has been waiting almost a year for a refund on her Kelowna to Edmonton flight

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Most Read