House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was block.


Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL



(a) the House recognize that (i) COVID-19 has tragically exposed long-standing issues affecting long-term care facilities across the country and the frontline workers who care for residents, (ii) we need to make sure the conditions of work reflect the care standards our seniors deserve, (iii) while the management of long-term care facilities is under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, we share the goal of ensuring safer, better care for seniors; and

(b) in the opinion of the House, the government should work with the provinces and territories to (i) improve the quality and availability of long-term care homes and beds, (ii) implement strict infection prevention and control measures, including through more provincial and territorial facility inspections for long-term care homes, (iii) develop a safe long-term care act collaboratively to ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve, no matter where they live.

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, as this is my first speech in this chamber in the 44th Parliament, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my constituents in Avalon for trusting me to be their voice once again here in this chamber. Without their support, I would not be able to stand here today and present this very important motion. It is my greatest honour and pleasure to serve them.

I am thrilled and honoured to stand in the House today to introduce my first private member's motion since I was elected in 2015, Motion No. 47, which strives to help the government move forward on improving the state of long-term care in Canada. Long-term care is a topic that is near and dear to me as an MP from Newfoundland and Labrador. My province has one of the fastest-aging populations in the country. Our death rate is outnumbering our birth rate, and with every passing day, the demand for long-term care spaces grows at an alarming pace.

Our seniors are the backbone of this country. They raised us, taught us and inspired all of us to be the people we are today. They worked hard and put in their service to their communities, and I believe it is on us, all of us, to ensure there is a dignified, respectful and safe space for them to live out their golden years.

As parliamentarians, we have learned many important lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. I would argue that one of the most alarming things we learned was the tragic state of some long-term care facilities in this country. The pandemic has underscored issues that far predate this pandemic, including staffing challenges, aging infrastructure and lack of adequate infection, prevention and control measures.

Of course, our provincial and territorial partners have primary jurisdiction over long-term care in Canada. We respect them and the role they play in legislating rules and regulations for long-term care homes and nursing homes in Canada. However, the federal government still has a vital role to play. We just have to look at what our government did to support long-term care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to see that at work.

Our government deployed the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Red Cross to long-term care facilities that faced severe COVID-19 outbreaks in the early days of the pandemic. About $740 million of the safe restart agreement funding was allocated to protect vulnerable populations and address the immediate needs in long-term care. We created the safe long-term care fund, a $1-billion fund that helps the provinces and territories protect people living and working in long-term care from COVID-19 and improve infection prevention and control. Of course, we did much more.

We believe that we must work hand in hand with our provincial and territorial partners to ensure there is a minimum standard of care across the country in long-term care. We want to support the provinces and territories by identifying gaps in legislation, enforcing standards of care and ensuring there is a clear minimum standard of care that should be upheld across the country.

In budget 2021, we announced a $3-billion investment in support of the provinces and territories to ensure that standards within long-term care facilities are applied and permanent changes are made to uphold those standards. The provinces and territories can use this funding to improve workplace conditions and training, strengthen enforcement and compliance, and much more. This is the type of collaboration that needs to continue, and I believe that by supporting Motion No. 47 and creating a federal long-term care act, we can work across jurisdictions to identify a standard of care and conditions that all facilities across our country should be expected to uphold. The commitment to a safe long-term care act came from my party's 2021 election platform and was reiterated through the recently announced agreement between the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party: Delivering for Canadians Now.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the good work of the Standards Council of Canada, the Health Standards Organization and the Canadian Standards Association, which have conducted extensive consultations to develop two sets of national standards related to long-term care. They are the national long-term care services standard of Canada to focus on resident and family-centred care practices and the national standard of Canada for operation and infection prevention and control of long-term care homes. It is my understanding that the draft of these standards of care documents have been released for public review. I hope this important research and consultation will act as the framework for a federal long-term care act and will guide us in making systemic changes that will benefit residents in long-term care facilities and those who work there.

I speak to seniors and their families almost every day, and they express serious concern about the future of our aging population. They are worried that long-term care spaces will not be available when they or their loved ones need one. They are concerned that with increased pressure and requirements, staff will start to burn out and homes will not be able to retain employees. They are concerned that long-term care facilities will not be properly equipped in the future to handle infectious diseases and keep their residents safe.

I share these concerns, and I know that my colleagues in this chamber share these concerns as well. The future of long-term care in this country lies in the hands of legislators like us. If we are proactive and innovative, we can change the course and address the problems facing long-term care across the country. I believe this starts with Motion No. 47. I believe that by supporting my motion and agreeing as a House that we support the creation of a long-term care act, we are taking the first step in bettering the lives of seniors and workers in long-term care in Canada.

I would like to thank all my colleagues for their support on this very important matter.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Avalon for bringing this motion forward. He talked about standards of care. There are provincial standards of care across Canada. The trouble is that none of those standards are being met in any province, and the problem is both funding and the model of delivering long-term care in Canada, which to a large extent is a for-profit model.

I am wondering how his motion would help this. If we do not get the profit out of long-term care in Canada, how can we put strings on any funding we might provide to make sure these long-term care homes provide a dignified place to live for seniors?

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, it will help because it will show we are interested in making sure we look after seniors in these facilities. However, as I said in my speech, we have to work with the provinces and territories to make that a reality. They control health care in their individual provinces. We have to sit down with them and make sure funding is available. Let us make sure the standards are up to a certain level that will guarantee seniors will have the good care and safety required in these facilities so that we will not see the same things happen again that happened through COVID-19 in recent years.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, for a lot of people, aging at home and a lot of other things could go along nicely with a motion like this. I am wondering what the member thinks about making sure the provinces can still utilize things such as aging in place and other means that people would want to use to meet their own specific needs. They may have a disability, and there are different things.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, I agree with aging in place. I think that would be part of the standards that would come out of this. We would recognize what is missing in our communities to keep people in their own homes longer and keep them safe. There will come a point where, if we all live long enough, we will end up in long-term care, so we should be concerned with what the path to get there is going to be like and what it is going to be like afterward once we end up in one of those facilities.

Both of my parents passed away in a long-term care facility, but they were well looked after in both instances by the two homes they ended up being in later in life. The way they were looked after was top-notch, but I know there were a lot of things missing. At that particular time, of course we did not have a pandemic to deal with, and I think it has highlighted so much wrong with the way things are done in Canada today. It is time now that we really take a serious look at this and get it right so we do not have the same things happen again in the future.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I am just as concerned as my colleague by what has been happening to seniors in long-term care facilities, but we do not have the same approach to finding solutions.

In Quebec, we realized what was going on, and our ombudsperson produced a report in 2021 with a number of recommendations to prevent this kind of thing from happening again if ever another pandemic strikes. Quebec realized what was going on, figured out what to do about it and is completely overhauling its health care system.

I have a question for my colleague.

If Quebec were to reject Canadian standards for long-term care in Quebec, does my colleague agree with his government that Quebec might not get any of that funding?

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, I believe, as I said in my speech, that we have to sit down with the provinces. We have to deal with the provinces when it comes to health care.

Let us sit down and see what Quebec is doing as a province, what B.C. is doing as a province and what Newfoundland and Labrador is doing as a province, and let us try to make sure that we come up with a proper act that has proper regulations and a set of standards that everybody can be happy with. This is not just Quebec doing it alone. I believe that help, even financial help for doing that, has to come hand in hand from the federal government.

Provinces should not be footing the entire bill themselves, so if these standards are going to bring an additional expense, that would be part of a negotiation with the provinces and coming to an agreement on a set of standards and the cost of those standards.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Shelby Kramp-Neuman Conservative Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Avalon for bringing this incredibly important issue to the floor of the House of Commons. It goes without saying that the issue of long-term care is perhaps, along with the cost of living, one of the issues heard most from concerned constituents by all members in this place.

The population in my riding of Hastings—Lennox and Addington has one of the highest percentages of seniors in this country. If we couple that statistic with the rural nature of a large majority of the riding, suitable housing for seniors is a real issue.

Not only do we need to make sure there are enough beds in facilities, but we need to ensure that those facilities are spread throughout the riding to accommodate the decentralized population centres across thousands of kilometres of Hastings—Lennox and Addington.

Many of my rural counterparts do not benefit from having the centralized smaller footprints of our urban colleagues, which means much more costly overhead in terms of capital and staff in getting our facilities set up.

While this is certainly daunting, recently Hastings—Lennox and Addington served as a good example of how the provinces can start the process on their own. Recently, the Ontario government announced $1.8 million of additional funding for long-term care facilities in Hastings—Lennox and Addington, and Kingston and the Islands.

This affects over 500 beds across these two ridings, and I am sure my colleague for Kingston and the Islands would be happy to join me in thanking the Conservative government of Doug Ford for this very important investment in long-term care across our riding. While this is certainly a positive step in the right direction, far more work needs to be done in Hastings—Lennox and Addington and across our country.

The reality of the situation is that the COVID-19 pandemic shed a jarring light on a problem that has been festering in Canada for decades. It was the dirty little secret that millions of Canadians did not want to acknowledge: Many of their parents were living in dismal conditions in our long-term care facilities.

In my opinion, the most eye-opening example of this was when the Ontario and Quebec governments called in the military to provide logistical support for their overworked caregivers in Operation Laser. Following this deployment, the Canadian Armed Forces released a document that contained five annexes titled observation reports. These chronicled concerning shortcomings that were further exacerbated by COVID-19 at five long-term care facilities.

I want to apologize to my colleagues for the graphic nature of much of these reports, but as someone responsible for the seniors' portfolio, I believe that it is incumbent on me to remind the House of the contents of the reports and read them into the record.

I want to reiterate that while the following excerpts are, for lack of a better term, horrific, they are not indicative of all facilities. However, the fact is that these situations occurred. Even if they were isolated instances, it is one time too many.

In the first facility, the report noted the following, among many other issues:

Reusing hypodermoclysis supplies even after sterility has been obviously compromised (e.g. a catheter pulled out and on the floor for an undetermined amount of time);

Poor palliative care standards—inadequate dosing intervals for some medications...

Generally very poor peri-catheterization care reported. Example: retracting penis foreskin to clean isn't happening on a widespread level. CAF have found nearly a dozen incidents of bleeding fungal infections....

Extra soaker pad: residents who routinely soil their bed despite incontinence products are not permitted to have an extra soaker pad or help protect sheets and blankets from soiling.... [The] rationalization used is that an extra pad is undignified....

New staff that have been brought to LTCF haven't been trained or oriented.

[LTCF] is “severely understaffed during day due to resident comorbidities and needs....

[Medical doctors] not present and have to be accessed by phone....

CAF [members] have witnessed aggressive behaviour, which ACC staff assessed as abusive or inappropriate.

In a second facility, the following were noted:

Little to no disinfection had been conducted at the facility prior to CAF operations. Significant gross fecal contamination was noted in numerous patient rooms;

Insect infestation was noted within [the long-term care facility]—ants and cockroaches plus unknown observed;

Delayed changing soiled residents, leading to skin breakdown....

Forceful feeding observed by staff causing audible choking/aspiration, forceful hydration observed by staff causing audible choking/aspiration;

Patients observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 minutes to over two hours....

SNO reported incident of patients' enteral feed bottle not being changed for so long the contents had become foul and coagulated; date and expiration of the contents not noted on the bottle;

SNO reported incident of permanent catheter being in situ three weeks beyond scheduled change date....


[Personal support workers] often rushed and leave food on table, but patients often cannot reach or cannot feed themselves, therefore missing meals or not receiving meals for hours.

This is just a small section of the report covering two specific facilities. It is disturbing, yet these same scenes are being played out across our nation and have been going on for decades. We in this nation seem to be content with treating our senior citizens, the people who literally built this country and raised our entire nation, no better than we would treat an animal. It is a national tragedy and a national shame that thousands of Canadian seniors consider the previously mentioned incidents to be part of regular life.

As I have previously mentioned in the House, in 2018, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities released a report entitled, “Advancing Inclusion and Quality of Life for Seniors”. That report identified a number of issues surrounding long-term care and suggested a number of actionable recommendations to address those issues. It is extremely unfortunate that, over four years later, we are still moving motions to crassly declare our great outrage over an issue this Parliament was directly made aware of at the time, but did not move fast enough to address.

Unfortunately, it seems to be the modus operandi of the current government to move a non-instructive motion, develop a framework, strike a working group, create a road map and do anything except actually address the issue at hand.

This year's budget is another perfect example of this mentality. Despite all of the grandstanding from the government about it having the backs of our seniors, it provided $20 million in its support for seniors budget line. That is $20 million out of $56.6 billion in proposed new spending. To put that into perspective, for every dollar the government has proposed to spend, Canadian seniors get less than half of a tenth of a cent.

To finish off, I would like to reiterate that I am not assigning blame to my hon. friend across the way who moved this very important motion, but more so to his colleagues on the front bench, who dither away while our Canadian seniors are suffering. I really want to thank him for bringing this motion to the floor. I hope that he will continue to advocate for Canadian seniors and press his caucus colleagues into meaningful action on this file.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, it should come as no surprise that the Bloc Québécois will oppose the motion. Let us look at the reasons why.

First of all, not everything in motion is bad.

For example, to the first point, everyone in Quebec agrees that the COVID-19 pandemic tragically exposed long-standing issues affecting long-term care facilities and the frontline workers who care for residents themselves—

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I have to interrupt the member because we seem to be having interpretation issues.

Now that the interpretation is working, the hon. member for Montcalm can pick up where he left off.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, the second point reads that “we need to make sure the conditions of work reflect the care standards our seniors deserve”.

Everyone agrees that we have a collective responsibility to care for our seniors as individuals. However, the conditions of work in long-term care facilities and seniors' residences do not fall under federal jurisdiction. That is the first problem, and I will come back to it.

The third point states that “the management of long-term care facilities is under provincial and territorial jurisdiction”. Here, they are basically admitting that it is none of their business. At least they are acknowledging it.

The motion continues by saying, “we share the goal of ensuring safer, better care for seniors”. Well done. I am very happy to see that the federal government has the same goal as Quebec and the provinces, that is, to ensure better quality care for seniors. That is effectively what Quebec wants.

However, health care is not under federal jurisdiction. If the federal government truly wishes to help the provinces and Quebec, it should convene a summit to discuss a sustainable increase in health care funding and health transfers, as requested unanimously by Quebec and the provinces, which are united on this. I will come back to this point.

The beginning of the second part of the motion states that, “in the opinion of the House, the government should work with the provinces and territories to (i) improve the quality and availability of long-term care homes and beds”. Quebec already has a plan for revamping its health care system. Parliamentary debates will be held to improve the plan, to determine whether it is sound and to look at the pros and cons, but that is the responsibility of the elected members of the Quebec National Assembly, not the House of Commons.

What our health care systems are missing is financial resources, meaningful recurrent investments, and a substantial increase in the federal government's contribution. That means increasing federal health transfers from 22% of system costs to 35% and increasing the escalator from 3% to 6% per year. That is what is being called for by Quebec and the provinces, as well as by many other stakeholders. I will come back to that later.

The second point in the second paragraph of the motion states, “implement strict infection prevention and control measures, including through more provincial and territorial facility inspections for long-term care homes”. Quebec has assessed, and continues to assess, its actions during the pandemic. It is not up to the federal government to tell Quebec what to do or how to do it. Besides, the feds do not even have the required expertise. The best solution the federal government can come up with is to take best practices found from coast to coast to coast and impose them, as if that were within its jurisdiction.

The third point in that second paragraph states, “develop a safe long-term care act collaboratively to ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve, no matter where they live”. The Quebec National Assembly unanimously opposed such federal standards, and let us not forget that the House of Commons voted against imposing standards when the NDP moved a motion in March 2021, in the 43rd Parliament. The Liberals voted against that at the time.

The Liberal Party must be suffering from amnesia, because during this 44th Parliament, it is at it again with this motion. I have to say, since the advent of the NDP-Liberal government, positions have become muddled. One thing remains clear: their appetite for interfering in things that do not concern them.

Has a federal government ever been defeated in an election over issues related to health? The answer is no, because the provision of health care is not a federal responsibility. In Quebec, we have often seen governments get the boot over health-related matters.

Health has been an exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces since 1867. Quebec has exclusive authority over health, except when it comes to the health of indigenous peoples, military hospitals, drug approval and quarantines. It is therefore up to Quebeckers to have this debate and make the decision. In a democracy, it is up to voters to sanction their government.

A debate has been raging for months in Quebec over the issue of long-term care and the decisions that were made during the COVID‑19 crisis. That debate is still going on, and it is the Quebec government that will take steps to correct the situation and the public that will decide, this October, if it is satisfied with the actions of its government.

Quebec already has solutions. It does not need the federal government to provide them.

In his November 23, 2021, report, the ombudsman pointed out flaws, but he mostly identified measures that the Quebec government must implement so that this never happens again.

In response to that report, the Quebec government presented its plan for reforming the health care system. The plan includes an array of measures, such as large-scale recruitment, better access to data, the construction of new hospitals, and increased accountability for executives. Additionally, the coroner is still investigating. People are calling for a public inquiry into the situation at long-term care facilities.

In any case, it is up to Quebeckers to take stock of the situation and to fix their system. I have said it before, and I will say it again: Quebec already has standards. Quebec's Act respecting health services and social services includes regulations for long-term care homes. I remind members that 86% of long-term care homes in Quebec are public facilities.

The report prepared by the Canadian Armed Forces at the end of its deployment to Quebec's long-term care homes is clear. There are already plenty of standards and rules for things like contamination prevention and control and PPE. However, that was not enough to stop the virus.

Why was Canada's federal stockpile empty? Why did we send PPE to mainland China when we were about to be hit hard by the virus? The government should answer these questions before lecturing others.

The main reason these rules were more difficult to follow is also very clear: There was a labour shortage. I will quote the Canadian Armed Forces report: “According to our observations, the critical need for CHSLDs is an improved level of staff with medical training”.

If the federal government truly wants to help the provinces and Quebec get through the pandemic and improve care for our seniors, it needs to stop patronizing us. It needs to drop this idea of mandatory national standards that are ill suited to the different social and institutional contexts, and it needs to increase health transfers, which will allow the provinces and Quebec to attract and retain more health care workers.

That is the federal government's job. It needs to increase health transfers. It knows that, but it thinks it can keep making one-time investments instead of recurring investments, even though we need to get through this pandemic.

The Bloc Québécois is steadfast in its demand for the federal government to immediately increase health transfers to 35% of costs and to index them going forward. The Parliament of Canada itself made this demand when it adopted a Bloc Québécois motion calling on the government to significantly and sustainably increase Canada health transfers to support the efforts of the governments of Quebec and the provinces, health care workers and the public. All of the premiers have made this demand. The Quebec National Assembly has made this demand. All of the unions, the FTQ, the CSN, the CSQ and the CSD, have made this demand, pointing out that the systemic funding problems facing the provinces and Quebec are hampering Canadians and Quebeckers from accessing the services they need.

On April 4, 2022, the Quebec medical community, including the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec, the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec and the Association des médecins hématologues et oncologues du Québec, along with several unions, joined the Bloc in calling on the federal government to hold a public summit on health care funding. All voters across Quebec and Canada want our health care systems to be improved. According to a Leger poll, 85% of voters support the recommendation made by the premiers and their united stance.

This motion is as pointless as the last election. It is not standards that will ensure better care, but rather the funding needed to deliver that care.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to rise here this morning to speak to Motion No. 47 on improvements to long-term care, put forward by the member for Avalon. This motion points out that the COVID pandemic has exposed long-standing issues affecting long-term care, and it asks the federal government to: with the provinces and territories to (i) improve the quality and availability of long-term care homes and beds, (ii) implement strict infection prevention and control measures...(iii) develop a safe long-term care ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve....

I am also happy to say that I will be supporting this motion. As a New Democrat, I am very proud to say that we have used our power in the current minority government to secure a commitment from the federal government in our confidence and supply agreement to bring in a safe long-term care act to ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve, no matter where they live. This long-overdue legislation must be implemented without delay, and I thank the member for Avalon for introducing this motion, which adds further impetus to this necessary action.

I would first like to thank all the workers in long-term care across Canada. They have been at the front lines of the pandemic for the past two years and more. This is hard work. It is stressful work, and it is done by people who truly care for the people whom they care for. I want to make it completely clear that these workers are not the problem in the long-term care crisis.

As the motion points out, COVID-19 has exposed a fragmented and under-resourced long-term care system across Canada, and this has been a problem for many years. I remember speaking here just over a year ago to an NDP motion that called for significant changes to make sure our seniors are cared for properly and with dignity. In that speech, I mentioned a couple of stories that illustrated how long-standing this problem is. I would like to briefly reiterate those points today.

In 2013, nine years ago, I met with a family who had lost both their mother and their father to substandard care at a privately owned care home in Summerland, British Columbia. The province investigated the family's concerns and found that the staffing levels of the facility were far too low. Months later, the company that owned the facility, Retirement Concepts, reported that it was trying to hire more staff but was having trouble filling the new positions. As Mike Old of the Hospital Employees' Union said, Retirement Concepts is well known for paying low wages, and that has resulted in chronic understaffing at many of its facilities.

Retirement Concepts operates 20 facilities in Canada, most of them in British Columbia. In 2016, Retirement Concepts was sold to Anbang Insurance Group of China for more than $1 billion. Since then, problems at Retirement Concepts homes seem only to have gotten worse. As of last year, the operation of its properties in Summerland, Courtenay, Nanaimo and Victoria had been taken over by the provincial health authority, all because care levels were inadequate due to understaffing.

Retirement Concepts is not alone in its understaffing problems. I remember visiting another facility in Penticton in 2015, seven years ago, and talking to the staff about working conditions there. I was shocked to find out that some of the staff who had worked there for 20 years were making less money in 2015 than when they had started in 1995. No wonder they were tempted to leave whenever they could. A friend whose mother was in that facility recently told me that the staff was hard-working and attentive but completely overwhelmed. There was always a “now hiring” sign out front. Apparently, the home could not afford to pay workers as much as the local hospital, so it was constantly losing the most experienced staff whenever a job opened up at the hospital.

Experts have been issuing dire warnings for years about this crisis, but successive federal governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have failed to act. Then the pandemic hit. Hundreds died needlessly in care homes during the pandemic, sometimes in horrific conditions. The armed forces had to be called in because staff was overwhelmed in many places. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, more than 840 outbreaks were reported in long-term care facilities and retirement homes during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This accounted for 80% of all COVID deaths in Canada during that wave, representing the worst record among comparable countries and double the OECD average.

We must never allow this to happen again. Federal leadership is urgently needed to protect vulnerable Canadians living in long-term care, both throughout the pandemic and in the years to come.

In these debates, we have heard a lot of calls for national standards of care. Yes, we need those national standards, but the fact is that no provincial standards are being met now. The benchmark for quality long-term care is 4.1 hours of hands-on care per resident per day; no province or territory currently meets this standard of care.

There is a lack of accountability for long-term care facility operators due to lax enforcement of standards and regulations. For example, a recent CBC investigation revealed that 85% of long-term care homes in Ontario have routinely violated health care standards for decades, with near total impunity.

The problem is funding. Lack of funding results in short-staffed institutions and underpaid workers. Underpaid workers are forced to work two or three care homes at once, and we saw how that spread the virus during the early stages of the COVID pandemic.

At the heart of the funding problem are the for-profit long-term care homes. Among care home residents, 80% have underlying medical issues that have meant they have had to move into those care homes. Long-term care is medical care, but it is not covered under our universal, not-for-profit health care system in Canada, and because long-term care lies outside the health care covered by the Canada Health Act, many care homes are run first and foremost for profit.

This means Canadians often pay substantial out-of-pocket costs for long-term care, which can vary significantly depending on the region and whether it is a private or public facility. Service quality varies widely depending on ability to pay, and service quality can have a significant impact on the health of care home residents, especially during a pandemic. Residents and workers in for-profit centres have faced a higher risk of COVID-19 infection and death than those in non-profit and publicly operated homes.

Decades of research have demonstrated that long-term care homes run on a for-profit basis tend to have lower staffing levels, more verified complaints and more transfers to hospitals, as well as higher rates of both ulcers and morbidity. On top of that, during the pandemic, many for-profit operators have been paying out millions in CEO bonuses and dividends while accepting public subsidies and neglecting the residents under their care.

The NDP is proud to have used its power to secure a promise from the government to advance a safe long-term care act through the confidence and supply agreement, and I will add that this agreement also includes dental care and pharmacare, so that we can have a truly universal health care system in Canada.

We must continue to work collaboratively with patients, caregivers and provincial and territorial governments to develop national standards for long-term care and other continuing care, which would include accountability mechanisms and data collection and be tied to sustainable, long-term funding. The standards are not enough by themselves.

Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to improve standards of long-term care, because they have embraced a profit-driven model for the sector. The NDP will work relentlessly to change that. Profit has no place in the care of our seniors, just as it has no place elsewhere in our primary health care system.

Our seniors deserve to live in dignity and comfort, so in conclusion, I will be supporting this motion. I urge the government to live up to its promises and act quickly and boldly to fix the long-term care crisis in Canada.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Jean Yip Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak about a subject that is having a significant impact on many Canadian families. The COVID pandemic laid bare systemic inadequacies in Canada's long-term care system. It has taken the lives of some of Canada's most vulnerable citizens and forever changed the lives of families and caregivers.

In my riding of Scarborough—Agincourt, we have seen the tragic outcomes. We have one of the highest death rates in long-term care homes, with 81 residents having passed away due to COVID. It exposed a woeful lack of infection prevention and control measures, staffing challenges and inadequate quality of overall care. As the disease ran rampant through many of these long-term care facilities, the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Red Cross was needed to help control its dire consequences.

Hon. members already know all of this. We also know that we cannot let it happen again, and we will not let it happen again. We need permanent and long-term solutions for long-term care facilities, where Canadians living and working in them are safe and treated with respect and dignity.

Budget 2021 included a $3-billion investment over five years, starting in 2022-23, to support provinces and territories in their efforts to ensure standards for long-term care are applied and permanent changes are made. Budget 2022 included $20 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to support additional research on the long-term effects of COVID-19 infections on Canadians as well as the wider impacts of COVID-19 on health and health care systems. We are doing this while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction over the long-term care sector.

Federal funding is being used to hire additional staff responsible for the development, implementation, evaluation and maintenance of a comprehensive infection control program in residential care homes and to make infrastructure upgrades to support enhanced infection prevention and control in long-term care. These staffing and upgrade investments are improving the quality of life for residents and staff in long-term care.

Just last week in Scarborough—Agincourt, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Seniors announced the signing of the safe long-term care fund agreement with Ontario, and other provinces and territories have also signed on to receive their share of the $1-billion funding.

In addition to the safe long-term care fund, the Government of Canada has also invested funds to address the deficiencies exposed by the pandemic. We have done this in several ways. We are investing $740 million in the safe restart agreement to support provinces and territories in addressing the immediate needs of vulnerable populations, including those in long-term care facilities. We are investing up to $3 billion in federal funding to support provinces and territories to increase the wages of low-income essential workers, which could include frontline workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities. We are investing $9.6 million in Healthcare Excellence Canada to support facilities across the country through the LTC+ initiative. More than 1,500 facilities are participating in the program, which will help them share information with the goal of strengthening pandemic preparedness.

That is not all. Our government is funding a $38.5-million pilot project to address acute labour shortages in long-term and home care. This funding is being used to recruit and train up to 2,600 new supportive care assistants through accelerated online training and a hands-on work placement. It is anticipated that the pilot will also support up to 1,300 of these supportive care assistants to pursue full personal support worker certification.

In budget 2021, we included $41.3 million over six years and $7.7 million ongoing for Statistics Canada to improve data infrastructure and data collection on supportive care, primary care and pharmaceuticals. That work begins this year.

Our government is acutely aware that many seniors can live happily in their own homes but often need support to do so. This is why we have invested $90 million, starting in 2021-22, in Employment and Social Development Canada to launch the age well at home initiative. This initiative will assist community-based organizations in providing practical support that helps low-income and otherwise vulnerable seniors to age in place.

I should also remind colleagues that beginning in July 2022, the old age security pension will be increased for seniors aged 75 and over. Employment and Social Development Canada is also leading the new sectoral workforce solutions program, which the government is funding with $960 million over the next three years. The purpose of this program is to help key sectors of the economy, including the health sector, design and deliver relevant training and connect Canadians with the training they need to access good jobs. This includes the need for more skilled personal support workers. Our government is also investing $27.6 million over three years for a group tax-free savings account to boost retirement savings for personal support workers.

Our government has built a strong social safety net and pension systems that all Canadians can be proud of. We have enhanced the CPP, and Quebec followed with the QPP. We raised the GIS for 900,000 single seniors, and this summer we are increasing the OAS for the most vulnerable seniors. We are also helping Canadians stay in their communities and homes longer by investing $70 million annually through the New Horizons for Seniors program, $6 billion in home care and $90 million over three years for the new “age well at home” initiative.

Canadians living and working in long-term care deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in a safe environment. As I said, our government is committed to working collaboratively with provinces and territories in a way that respects their jurisdiction for the delivery of health care services, including in long-term care. It is also committed to more provincial and territorial facility inspections. A crucial goal as we work together is the development of a set of national standards to replace the patchwork that currently exists across Canada.

Working closely together, the Health Standards Organization and the Canadian Standards Association Group are developing two complementary national standards for long-term care. These standards will address both the delivery of safe, reliable and high-quality care and the health infrastructure and environmental design of long-term care facilities. The Health Standards Organization released its draft standard for public consultation in January after consulting with 18,000 Canadians and stakeholders. The Canadian Standards Association Group released its draft standard in February. Both sets of standards have a consultation period of 60 days, with final standards to be released in late 2022.

The adoption of a set of national standards would be part of a permanent solution we are seeking to bring safety and peace of mind to staff, residents and their families. We must do all we can to permanently correct what needs correcting in the long-term care system, not only to better protect against a future pandemic, but to make every day a day of safety and good living.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to rise and join the debate on Motion No. 47.

First off, I want to thank someone. She is a lady who was very instrumental, not only in my decision to go into politics, but also in being a mentor for me. When getting into this position or other jobs, we often talk about our past lives in previous jobs. In a past life, I was honoured to be the president of the Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation, which is Vancouver Island's largest senior health care foundation. It cares for many hospitals in part of the Vancouver Island and Victoria area, including Aberdeen Hospital, Glengarry Hospital, the Priory and Heritage Woods, the Summit, and also, at one time, the Oakbay Lodge as well.

I got into helping out with this foundation due to one lady: Lori McLeod. Lori continues to be the executive director there after about 15 years. In all my life of dealing with seniors, both before and since being in politics, I have not seen anyone more committed, and also more progressive and more imaginative, in helping in care for seniors than Lori. I am very much thankful to Lori.

If members of the government really want to do stronger work for seniors, they should pick up the phone and contact the Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation and see all the incredible work it is doing to help Canadians age with dignity, as well as help with senior parents and the disabled as well.

I ask the government to do that because I know that this is just a motion. It is not a private member's bill like a regular act. It is just a motion. A motion, unfortunately, is much like good intentions. It is wonderful to talk about, and we may feel warm about it, but it does not actually accomplish much. It does not actually force or really push the government to make the changes needed.

The motion talks about the need to improve the quality and availability of long-term care homes, which is wonderful, but again there is nothing substantive behind the motion. There is no metric to say we need x amount or what we need to do. It talks about workers. We know that a lot of the workers caring for our family in these senior homes are new Canadians, especially from the Philippines. There is nothing the government has done that would actually speed up the process for PR status for temporary foreign workers working in this industry, which is so desperately needed. There is nothing being done by the government to recognize the foreign certifications to allow these new Canadians to work as perhaps LPNs or registered nurses in these facilities. While I applaud the very good intentions of this motion, we know where the path of very good intentions leads.

I do have great concern when government members talk so much about what they are doing for seniors. Everything seems to be based on their having spent money without actual outcomes being attached to it. We heard during COVID, “Oh, we sent everyone $500, whether they needed it or not”. I would have been very happy to support that if they had put all that money solely into the GIS, the guaranteed income support, for those who truly are low income and needed it, those who perhaps do not have CPP. Instead, they sent a cheque to everyone, which was pretty much like vote buying. We had so many calls from seniors who are very well off, who said they did not need the money. They asked why they were sent it. One would say it was vote buying, if one were cynical. Yes, I probably am cynical in that matter. Again, it just shows the government is not really serious about doing what needs to be done.

In 2017, during the 42nd Parliament, I introduced a private member's bill to eliminate the RRIF, or registered retirement income fund. Seniors, when they hit 72, have to start, by law, withdrawing a certain portion of their RRSPs to be taxed. What that does is to push them into a higher tax bracket. Perhaps they lose some of their GIS. If they are living in a care home run by a province where their rent is based on a percentage of their income, they end up having to pay a higher percentage of income. When I brought that bill forward, the government stated that it was money the government needed and that it would cost it too much, not realizing, of course, that the government will live on forever, while seniors do not.

The fact of the matter is that, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer noted, the government would get its hands on its filthy lucre eventually because, if a husband dies, his pension will be passed over to his wife tax-free. When she passes, it becomes fully taxable. These days, the average age for men to pass away is 81.4, and for women it is 85, so the government will always get its hands on the money, yet the Liberal government stated that it is more important that it gets that money now.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that the government is clawing back about $1 billion a year from seniors because it needs that money now. It is quite funny. It gave $91 million to Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, and said that it did not need that money right now, so Elon Musk can have it, but it needs the money from seniors now. This is even though reality shows, because we do not live forever, but the government does, the government would get its hands on their taxes. It is taking $1 billion a year away from seniors, which pushes them into higher tax brackets, claws back the GIS and other programs.

If the government were actually serious about helping seniors, it would not put through a motion of good intentions that it would like to increase the availability of long-term care homes. Of course, we would like that, but we need to have more than good intentions. We need to actually have action such as the elimination of the RRIFs. The Canadian Association of Retired Persons calls for it. Seniors groups call for it. C.D. Howe Institute calls for it and states very clearly the government would get more money in the end than it does by taxing seniors early.

Another issue the Liberals could look at is GIS reform. GIS currently has a very high clawback rate, and the previous speaker spoke about the need to keep seniors in their houses longer and past that. To do that, they need a bit more money. We are reaching a labour crisis in our country. We could help the country and seniors by keeping them in the workforce longer. Allowing them to earn a bit more without a massively high clawback rate for the GIS would be a first step. We could have seniors working and collecting more money without punishing them. Again, that is actual action we can do and not just a motion of good intentions. We could do the same with CPP reform.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member will be able to continue the next time this matter is before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. The order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from April 8 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders



Lianne Rood Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 43(2)(a), I would like to inform the House that the remaining Conservative caucus speaking times are hereby divided in two.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I appreciate the notification.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders



Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this morning. Much to the chagrin of the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, I am pleased to hear that the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is ensuring as many Conservatives as possible will be able to speak to the hardships Canadians are going to experience because of the Liberal-NDP budget tabled just two weeks ago.

Canadians need a break, and they need relief from the growing affordability crisis, a crisis the government has presided over and has contributed to with its failed policies.

What were Canadians looking for when the finance minister and the Prime Minister delivered the budget? They wanted controlled spending. They have had to rein spending in at home, and they expected the government to do the same. Of course, they needed tax breaks. We are seeing the price of everything go up, such as gas to fill up our cars to get to medical appointments, go to work or take our kids to a recreational activity.

We are seeing the price of home heating go up. We live in one of the world's coldest climates, but the price to heat our homes continues to go up and up. Canadians want meaningful action on housing inflation. We have seen the price of a home in Canada more than double during the government's mandate.

Over the last six years, in spite of promises made by the government when it first was seeking government in 2015, Canadians are worse off than they were at that time. Whether they are seniors, young people, new Canadians or families, they would be crushed by the avalanche of uncontrolled spending that has been promised in the shadow of a deal between the Liberals and the New Democrats. This is all while the government had a unique opportunity. The conditions they contributed to allowed for the government to be the beneficiary of a windfall on the backs of the very Canadians who are suffering.

We saw government revenues climb by $24 billion over what the finance minister had projected in her fall economic update. There was an opportunity. The government did not take that opportunity to give Canadians a break with the carbon tax on April 1, a tax that does nothing to reduce emissions but does everything to hurt families, seniors and young people. It did not take that opportunity.

We also know Canadians are having a really tough time dealing with the conditions that persisted and existed before COVID-19, which were exacerbated by COVID-19, in our health care system. The government had an opportunity to use this budget to increase capacity and address backlogs in our health care system, but the government is would add to the burdens on our health care system by launching new programs amid what is well known to be a human resource crisis in our health care system.

These commitments the government has made, which were not done in consultation with the provinces, and which have expressly been called by the provinces as unwelcome, would have a negative impact on people's quality of care, their quality of life and, in fact, on the outcomes they would have for otherwise treatable and curable illnesses.

It is also going to have great harm on an area we have seen across the country and in all of our communities. All members in the House can attest to the impacts COVID-19 has had on the mental health of Canadians. It is irresponsible for the government to prioritize its deal to cement its power and to further consolidate power in the Prime Minister's Office. Its deal with the NDP is now going to allow the government to do that, but it is done at the expense of addressing the health care needs of the provinces and territories.

It is critical the government work with the provinces and territories on improving health care, which would require the Prime Minister to show the leadership of having those conversations with the premiers. We have a budget coming out of COVID-19, and the Prime Minister said that he would not talk about health care with the provinces until he effectively decided that COVID was over.

It is unbelievable, with all of the challenges. We can talk about the effects of missed and delayed care appointments, and the treatment and surgical backlogs that have been exacerbated. We saw a health care hallway across our country well before COVID-19, and at a time when it is being most acutely felt, we have a Prime Minister saying that we will talk about it after the health care crisis that we are currently experiencing. That is not the collaboration or the leadership that Canadians need. That is certainly not what the provinces have been calling for, which is leadership.

The health care system is cash-strapped and resource-strapped, but now we have these programs that were decided by the fourth party in the election. It has dictated to the minority government how it is going to address the health care system. It is not with solutions; it is with further burdens.

The Liberal government, the Prime Minister and their partner with the leader of the NDP should talk to the provinces about predictable and stable health care transfers so they can plan what that looks like. Any increases they are seeing right now were planned by and decided by the Conservative government before they came to office. They have not made any improvements on that. In fact, they derided that formula, but it is the one they are sticking to.

It makes me wonder what the Liberals really put on offer when they go to an election. They run down what the Conservatives had executed, which is a health care funding formula that was executed before 2015, and they continue it through a pandemic six years later. Then they pick up the ball from the NDP and jam those promises down the provinces' throats when they were just looking to talk about what has changed in the system over the five years they had been in office. It is really confusing. They said they would not stick with what the Conservatives offered, but instead they kept that and added what the NDP wanted.

I guess the Liberals are setting the stage for the next election or this budget vote to be one of deciding if Canadians want to vote for the NDP or the Conservatives. Well, I have to tell members that we will work with the provinces. We will give Canadians a break. We are not going to further burden Canadians, at a time when they can afford it the least, in all of the areas that I mentioned previously, which are about basic affordability.

When I talk about this, the government members will stand up and say that supply chain issues are a global phenomenon. They will stand up and tell us to compare our debt-to-GDP ratio with that of other countries around the world. However, whether we are in Eureka, Nunavut, Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island, Victoria, British Columbia, or any point in between, that is just word salad. It does not mean anything to Canadians who cannot afford the basic necessities of life.

We have people in communities across the country and in my community who have to make the choice between heating their home and feeding their family, heating or eating, at a time when we are having a conversation about bringing more people to our great country to enjoy the beauty and bounty that this country has to offer. We better make sure there are no claims of false advertising brought by the folks we are trying to attract here. It is going to be tough sledding. It is going to be tough sledding when they get here and find things out. Welcome to Canada, and if they want to own a home, they just need $850,000 to get started. Yikes. Once they do, good luck heating the place. If they can afford to heat it, the price of groceries this year is going to go up by a minimum of $1,000 per family. Also, the price at the pump will only increase under failed policies that the government continues to double down on.

Canadians needed a break from the government. They needed leadership on health care. They have neither, so the Conservatives, the official opposition, have tremendous concern and will continue to fight for Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the member has selective memory when it comes to health care. He is really off base. When we think about it, Stephen Harper did absolutely nothing. He did not negotiate with the provinces and, in fact, let the Canada health care accord retire. There were no negotiations at all.

One of the first things we did when we came into government was negotiate individual health care accords with the provinces. Today we have record amounts in health care transfers going to the provinces, but that is not enough. We have recognized the importance of mental health, long-term care and the cost of drugs for Canadians. We are prepared and willing to do more, and our consecutive budgets have demonstrated that.

How could the member, after reflecting on the last number of years, possibly give the speech he has just given when in fact things are quite the opposite? This is a government that cares for Canadians and the health of Canadians, and it is demonstrated in every budget, including this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, I am glad to see that we have woken government members and have excited them early on a Monday, but my goodness, I sincerely hope, genuinely, that the member, his constituents and all members and their constituents do not have to experience the hardships that exist in our health care system because of the government's inactions. Unfortunately, those who are dealing with the health care system today are dealing with the realities that my hon. friend is trying to spin. Our health care system is in crisis. We have a health care human resource crisis, and the government failed to address it in this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, as members know, the whole issue of health transfers was discussed earlier in the debate on a motion.

As we know, in the 1960s and 1970s, the federal government funded 50% of health care spending. That funding was cut repeatedly, and now the feds fund only about 22% through health transfers.

The Quebec government and all Canadian provinces are calling for an increase in these health transfers. Unfortunately, this budget does not include any such measures. What are my colleague's thoughts on that?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2022 / 12:10 p.m.


Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, the premier of the member's province expressed great concern, to put it mildly, with the federal government's approach to dealing with the provinces. I am paraphrasing, but I believe it was characterized as a war on the provinces. That is incredibly concerning.

This goes back to the Prime Minister saying that he will not work with the provinces on health care funding until after the pandemic. We are going to have live with COVID-19 for a long time and will have to adapt to that, and the Prime Minister will need to adapt his approach for dealing with this. He needs to collaborate with the provinces, as health care is their jurisdiction. I know that is sometimes complicated for the government to understand, but health care is a provincial jurisdiction and the federal government needs to work with them to ensure that it is properly funded, not dictate to them on how it is executed.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I always find the member eloquent and enjoy working with him, but I have some questions.

First, during the dismal decade that was the Harper government, there was an average, under the PBO, of $25 billion in money that went to overseas tax havens. He has expressed concern about the deficit, but over that dismal decade, a quarter of a trillion dollars, or $250 billion, went to overseas tax havens, and the Conservatives had put in place initiatives to continue that practice. As we know, health care was cut back in that dismal decade.

How could the member defend the record of his former government?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, it is really important in 2022 that we look to the results of the government, which the member's party has just decided to keep in power regardless of its failures for Canadians, who are struggling with an affordability crisis.

The member has identified issues that are of great importance to the people who elected him to this place. Some people in my constituency explained that they were concerned about some of those issues. The government has abandoned that ground, and I would encourage the member opposite to prod the government to give some meaningful help to Canadians, instead of having this avalanche of spending.