Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Newmarket—Aurora.
Today, I am giving my comments on a hyper-partisan motion from our Conservative colleagues.
I am proud to have sat on the health committee since the beginning of the pandemic. The committee has been working hard studying COVID-19 and the government's response. Since January, the health committee has held 34 meetings and heard from 171 witnesses as part of its study on COVID-19. The motion's goal is not to continue the good work for Canadians, but to send our health committee down a road of never-ending, counterproductive work.
The opposition says they are acting in the best interests of Canadians. However, in speaking about the motion, this is what the member for Calgary Nose Hill has to say to her Facebook audience. I am going to read the titles of the member's Facebook videos before speaking about the health committee. I want to see if members can get the tone she is conveying to her audience. She posts a video about a “Snap election alert” with a link to her website. Then she adds another “Snap election update”, another “snap election update” and then finally, a full election alert titled “Confidence motion on Trudeau scandal—full breakdown on what’s happening in Ottawa!!!!”
I am hearing the member opposite say we should work shoulder to shoulder. We are ready to work shoulder to shoulder for Canadians.
I ask all those listening, “What is the member concerned about?” If the Conservatives were really concerned about long-term care or even health transfers to the provinces, they would present studies on these specific topics at the health committee.
The members of the party opposite continue to be focused on political games. On this side of the House, we are focused on Canadians. As many members in the House have said previously, what happened in our long-term care homes in the first wave of COVID-19 was without a doubt a tragedy. I think the majority of the House would agree with that fact.
This is why I am disappointed that this motion only briefly mentioned long-term care homes, among a wide range of 16 other topics. When the member for Calgary Nose Hill brought the motion to the Standing Committee on Health, it was disappointing to see long-term care referenced among 16 other topics. What happened in our long-term care homes deserves its own separate study at the health committee.
The motion would send the health committee on a never-ending study to look at issues that are most important in the member's riding. Many members are concerned about that. However, maybe for some members of the Conservative Party this is important.
From our very first meeting, the Liberals at committee came forward with a motion to study the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, and my motion is to study its impact on long-term care. While respecting provincial jurisdictions, we want to continue to get good work done for Canadians on committee. This unreasonable motion does not do that.
The conditions reported by the Canadian Armed Forces in five long-term care homes in Ontario are deeply concerning and disturbing. One of these long-term care homes is located in my community of Brampton South. What we are seeing is the result of a pattern of neglect of long-term care facilities in Ontario. There is no excuse for the conditions that were reported. A lack of proper use of personal protective equipment, mistreatment of residents and poor facility conditions are unacceptable.
I would like to thank the CAF for their service to Canada and their bravery in coming forward with this report. It is up to us as elected officials to be part of the solution to this problem. Over 80% of all COVID-19-related deaths happened in long-term care homes. Our seniors deserve so much better than what they got.
Some homes saw over one-third of their residents pass away. Over 1,900 seniors died during the first wave in long-term care homes in Ontario alone. This is not to say that all long-term care facilities are bad. In fact, there are many excellent facilities across the country. Deaths in Ontario have occurred in only 60% of the homes, and half of all deaths occurred in just 23 homes across the province.
It is about figuring out what went wrong in the homes that had COVID-19 deaths, in many cases while respecting provincial jurisdictions, which my motion at the health committee acknowledges. It is extremely important to analyze how we can better protect our seniors in the future. The federal government and I, as a member of Parliament, have no interest in stepping on the toes of the provinces when it comes to long-term care. This has been a long-standing issue, and COVID-19 has presented a moment where all of us can step up and say, “No. We will no longer allow seniors to receive less than they deserve.”
Now we are being hit with the second wave. We are seeing cases start to trickle into long-term care homes once again. Experts are ringing alarm bells once again:
“I absolutely am very terrified and worried,” said Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician specializing in long-term care who witnessed first-hand the devastation of the first wave in GTA facilities. “We have to really realize that long-term care is not a parallel universe. More spread of COVID-19 in the community increases the risk of an outbreak starting in long-term-care facilities.”
In Ontario alone, there are 71 outbreaks in long-term care homes. The federal government has sent the Red Cross into seven Ottawa long-term care homes, in addition to the more than 600 Red Cross workers who have been helping in 25 long-term care homes in Quebec.
There have been 40 COVID deaths in Ontario long-term care homes over the past month. Last week alone, seven people in long-term care died as a result of COVID-19. This issue is not going away and highlights the importance for the health committee to give this issue the study it deserves.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the heroes working in long-term care homes. I thank them for going above and beyond to support our dear long-term care residents. During these challenging times, Canadians are grateful for the work that is being done to protect our seniors.
With that being said, we have all heard about the staffing shortage in Ontario and across the country. This issue must be studied to ensure we can avoid any tragic situation like what happened in the spring. This is a provincial jurisdiction, but, as our government has said before, we are all in this together.
Some provinces have been proactive about this issue, and that is great to see. From the very beginning, we have seen provinces take different approaches to keeping residents in long-term care homes safe. For example, the Province of Quebec launched a recruitment drive in June to hire and train thousands of staff members and a manager for each long-term care home to oversee the COVID-19 response. It would be beneficial to learn from experts in Quebec and other provinces and to hear what actions they are taking to safeguard long-term care homes as we endure the second wave of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is also having a serious impact on the mental health of Canadians. Loneliness is taking a toll on Canadians. The latest finding from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is that a substantial portion of the population is coping with a mental health issue. My colleague, the member for Newmarket—Aurora, presented a motion at the committee to study the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of Canadians.
This silent pandemic is another issue that I have heard about from many constituents. In my riding of Brampton South, one constituent of mine, Michelle, has two elderly parents in long-term care homes and has been advocating for change in these homes ever since the start of this pandemic. She has worked with other families in similar situations and even secured 70,000 signatures on a petition, asking for all governments to take action. People like Michelle are counting on us to do the right thing by their families.
While one small aspect of this motion commits to looking at long-term care in some capacity, this issue deserves its own study by the health committee.