House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was violence.


The House resumed from April 25 consideration of the motion.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 47 is a very interesting motion. I read it carefully. There are many items and observations in this motion on improvements the governments of Quebec and the provinces need to make to long-term care. We know that many people suffered during the pandemic. We really need to keep their interests in mind when we legislate.

When I read the motion, my first thought was to grab my phone, open Google Maps and look at where we are, because I get the impression that the person who wrote this motion did not know that they were in Ottawa. Not only does this motion talk about Quebec and provincial jurisdictions at every turn, but, what is more, it contains factual errors.

We are told that health care is a jurisdiction the federal government shares with Quebec and the provinces. I find this motion absurd. In recent years, the federal government has suddenly become interested in health care. It has developed a passion for health care, for regulating health care and for imposing conditions on the provinces. The Liberals appointed a Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and now they want to attach conditions to health transfers and to microtransfers.

Now, the Liberals want to tackle long-term care when they have never, ever, managed such facilities, as I said before. This is absurd, because they are so interested in health care that, when the time comes to pay, they disappear. When it comes time to reach into their pockets, they disappear. When something is likely to cost even a penny, they disappear.

According to the Liberals’ perspective in this motion, health is a shared jurisdiction. They are gravely mistaken, since they have made it somewhat of a shared jurisdiction over the years by using a loophole in the Constitution known as spending power. Health care is so not a shared jurisdiction that they have to interfere in a roundabout way.

I will explain for the umpteenth time how the spending power works. The Liberals in Ottawa wake up one morning, read the Constitution and decide to interfere in health care. Once they have read the Constitution properly, they see that they do not have the right to legislate health care. They then think about how they can interfere in the provinces’ affairs and decide to tighten the purse strings and to clamp down on the provinces so hard that, sooner or later, the provinces will do what they tell them to do. That is what is known as spending power. That it what they are doing by imposing conditions.

That is the case with the Canada Health Act and many other legislative measures. They have invented these shared jurisdictions. This is really the power to hold up the provinces. It is literally an extortion power over Quebec, over sick people, people who are suffering, people who are victims of post-COVID downloading. It is a power the federal government gave itself to hold up these people who are suffering.

The Liberals are arrogant enough to tell us that health care is a shared jurisdiction. In any case, violating Quebec’s jurisdictions is certainly the exclusive purview of the federal government. I can attest to it.

It is funny, because the provinces and Quebec, the ones that know what health is all about, the ones that manage hospitals, the ones that work in this area all year long, are asking for increased health transfers. They are asking for unconditional transfers that will cover 35% of health care system costs. That is what the people who know what they are talking about are calling for.

Other people who also know what they are talking about include the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health, of which I am a member. They told us that the Quebec and the provinces need more funding to carry out long-term reforms, particularly in home care and long-term care. The provinces should be able to make these reforms with increasing, stable and predictable funds.

In the past few weeks, no one has appeared before the Standing Committee on Health to ask the federal government to impose more constraints on the provinces because they need them. The government is proposing new constraints for the provinces, as if they needed them. The spending power is being used very liberally.

Only this week, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, whom I have jokingly called “Dr. Spending Power,” suggested to the Standing Committee on Health that the federal government should hold back the funds until Quebec and the provinces have met the federal government’s immigration and medical staff targets.

I cannot make this stuff up. Quebec manages its economic immigration, and the federal government wants to reopen the agreements to interfere in our affairs. Now it is interfering in workforce training, when it cannot even run its own immigration department. IRCC cannot even bring in temporary foreign workers. The government cannot even process those applications in a timely manner, but it wants to tell us how to train our workforce. Quebec has always defended its administrative sovereignty tooth and nail with asymmetrical agreements, and the other provinces should follow our lead.

That is what the federal government’s shared jurisdiction is all about.

Over the years, the Liberals and Conservatives have cut health care funding so much that Quebeckers now believe they are the ones who can no longer manage health care. They are losing confidence in themselves and in their institutions and hospitals, because they do not realize that the problem comes from above. The problem comes from people who are interested in every aspect of health care except the aspect they are actually responsible for, namely taking the money and transferring it.

I will be honest. If the federal government were a good government and did its job like everyone else once in a while, and if the people on the other side were competent, which they definitely are not, we might be interested in hearing their advice on health care. I though they might be good at it and maybe I am prejudiced against the federal government and especially the Liberals, so I went to see the list of the federal government’s achievements in its own areas of jurisdiction.

Let us start with IRCC, which may be the worst immigration department of a G20 country. These people cannot bring in temporary foreign workers on time. Last December, our farmers were wondering whether they would get their workers, because the government was doing new labour market impact assessments, which had already been done in Quebec by the Commission des partenaires du marché du travail, Quebec's labour market partners commission. The federal government thinks that temporary foreign workers are going to steal our jobs when we are at full employment. That is how the federal government is doing in jurisdictions where it is supposed to be good.

Let us talk about passports. The federal government cannot get the printer to work, but it wants to tell Quebec and the provinces what they should do in health care.

Moreover, the government cannot even fulfill its military obligations toward its partners. It took the war in Ukraine to remind the feds that NATO exists and that normal countries take care of their army. The government does have time, however, to harass people about health care.

The Minister of Immigration is doing nothing about the airlift. We have been talking about it for weeks, and when the government finally woke up, it found three planes. We would have to put 50,000 people on each plane for that plan to work. However, the federal government has time to harass us about health care.

Let us talk about Phoenix. Some of the federal public servants whose work is being praised by the government have lost their home. Some are still refusing promotions today. They are refusing them because they are afraid that Phoenix will mess up their file. However, the government is telling Quebec what to do about health care.

Let us talk about KPMG. The minister does not even know that she is entitled to request an investigation. The Minister of National Revenue has not read her own act. However, the government is interfering in health care.

The Governor General drinks champagne while our indigenous peoples do not even have drinking water, but the government can tell us what to do about health care.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I apologize for interrupting the hon. member. I will stop the clock. I think someone has a microphone on.

I want to remind members who are participating virtually to make sure their microphones are not on, because they disrupt what is going on in the House.

The hon. member for Mirabel. He has 40 seconds left.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I will not be disarmed. The Minister of Transport is not even able to sign a sheet of paper to start the construction of a seniors' residence in Mirabel, but the Liberals can come up with a motion on this subject to meddle in our affairs.

With respect to greenhouse gas emissions, the Minister of Environment is incapable of knowing that oil is brown and black and that a pipeline carries it, but we are being told what to do about health.

As was said earlier, 95% of the weapons used in the incidents we are currently seeing are illegal weapons, but the government does not want to make a list of criminal organizations.

When the Liberals do their job, they can tell the provinces to do theirs.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, the COVID pandemic has exposed long-standing issues affecting long-term care. In response to what the country now knows about the shortcomings, it is the duty of the government to work with the provinces and territories to improve seniors’ living conditions as well as workers’ conditions in long-term care, to be more equitable across this country.

As a New Democrat, I am happy to say that we have used our power to secure a commitment from the federal government, through the confidence and supply agreement, to bring in a safe long-term care act that would ensure seniors receive the care they deserve, no matter in what province or which long-term care home they live. This long-overdue legislation must be implemented without delay, and I thank the member for Avalon for introducing this motion, which takes another step forward in speeding up the necessary action to protect seniors and the workers who care for them.

I would like to thank all the workers who have supported seniors throughout this pandemic and who support seniors every day in this country. I offer my heartfelt gratitude to every single worker who did double duty as a caregiver and an emotional supporter when families could not visit or hug their loved ones for months on end during this pandemic. When family support was not available, every care worker stepped up to fill that gap.

I will also take a moment to recognize Frank, a long-term care resident and loved dad and uncle who finds himself again in lockdown as we work through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Care workers have a special constitution, a moral connection to their clients and skills that deserve great respect. Their work is hard, stressful and both physically and emotionally taxing. This is why the working conditions and pay of long-term care workers need to improve as we work to improve long-term care itself.

COVID-19 magnified the unequal and under-resourced long-term care system across Canada, and the lack of accountability, especially in privatized care. This lack of accountability is due to lax enforcement of standards and regulations. For example, a CBC investigation revealed that 85% of long-term care homes in Ontario had routinely violated health care standards for decades, with near total impunity.

Let me be clear that there is no fault on the workers here, who give their all in a system that is undervalued by the government. Decades of underinvestment and under-regulation have resulted in short-staffed institutions and underpaid workers. Inadequate wages have forced care workers to take on long hours and to work at multiple care homes just to make ends meet. That practice serves neither workers nor seniors and must change.

Deeply troubling in this country is the move to privatize long-term care, where corporations are focused on profits rather than the care of the people they are supposed to serve. 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 Canada Health Act, too many care homes are run first and foremost for profit.

Privatization of long-term care does not work for seniors and does not work for the workers either. Decades of research have demonstrated that long-term care homes that run on a for-profit basis tend to have lower staffing levels, more verified complaints and more transfers to hospitals.

In addition, during the pandemic, many for-profit operators paid out millions in bonuses to CEOs and dividends while accepting subsidies from the government and neglecting the residents under their care. While those CEOs were taking home bonuses, workers in long-term care had to work multiple jobs to pay rent and keep food on the table. During COVID-19, they were getting sick and injured and their mental health suffered.

We must recognize and value the essential labour of those who take care of us. Crucial policy actions need to include better and faster recognition for credentials received outside Canada for care workers, higher wages, paid sick days, accessible and affordable child care, and mental health supports. Let us also include dental care and pharmacare.

In recent testimony out of the HUMA committee on long-term care, Katherine Scott of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives told us that women represent 75% of workers in care occupations and have lower average employment income than their male counterparts. In 2015, a female care worker earned an average of 81% of a male care worker’s wage.

Naomi Lightman told the HUMA committee, “we know that the process of transferring credentials needs to be accelerated. It needs to be faster, it needs to be easier and it needs to be more affordable.” She said that many immigrant women who work in the care sector are sending remittances to their home countries and are working multiple part-time jobs just to make ends meet to support their families. She also said the current process does not allow them the time or the financial means needed to do the upgrading the government requires.

How can we expect to attract and retain workers in this highly gendered occupation when the industry discriminates against them? The exploitation of care workers needs to stop. We must make every care job a good job, to protect seniors and workers across the country.

In a HUMA study on seniors, we were told that staffing levels in long-term care facilities also need to improve. Care homes are having trouble hiring more staff. This is no surprise given that these facilities are known for low wages and difficult working conditions. The Liberals must act immediately to ensure both seniors and their care workers get the dignity they deserve.

Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed our care workers. As a result, the current government has also failed our seniors. It has not legislated improved standards in long-term care, has not ensured workers are paid adequately and has not respected the skill and importance of care work. Instead, it continues to let the market erode our long-term care. As it embraces the profit-driven model, it turns a blind eye to the inadequate care for seniors and the exploitation of workers.

The NDP will work relentlessly to change that. Profit has no place in the care of seniors, just as it has no place anywhere in our primary health care system. We must continue to work collaboratively with seniors, their families, caregivers, not-for-profit and public care providers and provincial and territorial governments to develop national standards for long-term care, which must include accountability mechanisms and data collection measuring outcomes, as well as funding.

All people in Canada deserve to live in dignity, with their human rights upheld and protected. It is my expectation that the government live up to its commitments and act quickly and boldly to fix the deteriorating conditions in long-term care, not just for the residents of Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra, but for everyone across Canada. It must also stop the exploitation of care workers immediately.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak on something residents told me is their clear priority. I will be speaking in support of the private member's motion of my colleague for Avalon on improvements to long-term care

We know residents in long-term care homes disproportionately suffered during the early stages of the pandemic. That was true in Brampton, but also from coast to coast to coast.

Seniors are one of the fastest-growing age groups in Canada. I know everyone in this chamber agrees we need to do everything we can for the people who built this country. I read the text of this motion and see that it speaks to the many needs of our seniors, families and health care workers. The motion is in line with the Minister of Seniors' mandate letter, and I trust all members will agree that it is a positive step forward.

Today, I want to focus on specific elements of this motion to share the perspective of seniors from my community, as I have heard it directly from them.

The past two years have been challenging for Canadians. The pandemic exposed gaps in the system, and our government has been there to support Canadians and provinces by laying out a plan for the recovery. Time flies, but I still remember all the work we have done since 2020 in the Standing Committee on Health. We have listened to experts on our government's response to the pandemic.

I would like to take members back to the beginning of 2020. From January 15 to February 28, there were 14,960 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario among long-term care residents. Those accounted for 15% of all reported cases in the first wave, according to Public Health Ontario. At the same time, at the peak of the first wave, outbreaks in LTC and seniors' homes accounted for 81% of deaths in Canada.

As the situation worsened, and at the request of the Government of Ontario, teams of medically trained Canadian Armed Forces personnel were temporarily deployed to facilities identified by the province to provide a range of assistance and medical support. Grace Manor was one of them: this facility is located in Brampton South.

The Canadian Armed Forces went above and beyond to temporarily support long-term care homes. Then, the CAF report that followed included stories and examples of unacceptable abuse. When I first saw this report, I was deeply concerned about residents enduring unbearable conditions.

I want to thank all CAF members for their selfless service to our seniors, but these tragedies should never have happened. Sad stories such as these are why we are debating this motion today. They are also why I want to recognize all of the families with residents living in long-term care. Family members of residents in LTC are important support systems, and the pandemic made that difficult. We will always keep them in our hearts. Their strength, resilience and advocacy has been inspiring. That is why, back in 2020, my Ontario colleagues and I got together to advocate for national standards for long-term care so seniors in Canada could receive the quality of care they deserved.

In the 2020 fall economic statement, in budget 2021 and in budget 2022, we continued our commitment to strengthen care for seniors and persons with disabilities. The Government of Canada has worked collaboratively with provinces and territories throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to protect seniors in long-term care. This includes up to $4 billion to help provinces and territories improve the standard of care in those facilities.

I know the Minister of Health, the Minister of Seniors and other ministers are working together with provinces to advance these commitments, and I know they will deliver. A lot of important steps have already been taken.

Our government welcomed the news that the Health Standards Organization and Canadian Standards Association have launched a process to help address these issues.

The Health Standards Organization and Canadian Standard Association will work with the government, stakeholders and Canadians to develop national standards that will help to inform ongoing discussions with provinces and territories on improving the quality of life of seniors in long-term care homes. After years of hard work, our seniors deserve that.

In budget 2021, our government committed $3 billion over five years to Health Canada to support provinces and territories in ensuring that standards for long-term care were applied and permanent changes were made. Our government amended the Criminal Code to penalize those who neglect seniors under their care. This will go a long way in addressing some of the long-standing challenges and gaps.

Budget 2022 proposes the creation of an expert panel to study the idea of an aging-at-home benefit. Our government recognizes that some seniors wish to stay at home for as long as possible, where they are comfortable and with the communities that support them. Coming this summer, we are increasing old age security for seniors ages 75 and up. I know my residents welcome this initiative, and I know that our government is taking meaningful action to support the provinces and territories as they address gaps.

The pandemic was hard on seniors, and we will come out of this stronger than ever before. Helping Canadians age with dignity in the best possible health, all while enjoying social and economic security, is one of the government's top priorities.

In conclusion, let us agree that we must continue to work with all provinces and territories to help ensure that everyone, no matter where they live in Canada, has access to the long-term care they deserve.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Motion No. 47.

As of 2021, Alberta had a total of 186 long-term care homes. From June 6 to 12, Alberta celebrated Seniors' Week and honoured the vital contributions seniors have made, and will still make, in their respective communities. Now, it is our turn to reciprocate.

As we are all aware, it was difficult during the pandemic for many, especially seniors in long-term care. It was an eye-opener for all of us. Our long-term care facilities needed to be improved. The NDP-Liberal government must meet its provincial counterparts to ensure our seniors are taken care of properly. During the pandemic, I received complaints from families worried about their parents' well-being. Seniors were isolated. They had to stay in their rooms and have their meals in their rooms, and their daily exercise routines, as well as their socialization with others, was not permitted.

Although health care is primarily a provincial issue, the federal government needs to increase the health transfers to help provinces with the ongoing challenges they are facing. Even though the provinces use the health transfers at their discretion, the federal government can make recommendations. The government's uncontrolled spending that is exacerbating skyrocketing inflation leaves seniors and other vulnerable demographics behind. The government needs to commit to long-term care with accountability and to long-term care that serves Canadians' best interests.

For years, experts, residents and caregivers have identified the need for the same rigorous standards and accountability across Canada. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on the long-standing challenges with our health care system, and we need to tackle those challenges head-on. We can no longer afford to ignore the issues that have long existed in long-term care and home care. These health services were crucial in helping older Canadians to remain active and engaged in society and to live with dignity. The pandemic has exposed the unacceptable conditions in many long-term care homes across the country that people with serious health conditions have been required to live in for decades.

Home care clients were left without basic personal care services, such as bathing and laundry, during the pandemic. This is reflective of the larger issue with home care. Its capacity to improve health and reduce costs continuously fails to be recognized and funded by governments. When long-term care and home care fail older adults, families and friends step in. Informal caregivers provide an estimated 80% of community care and 30% of care in institutions. As Canada's population ages, relying on informal caregivers to bolster the health and social systems will have major ramifications for our society and our economy.

Now is the time to implement enforced principles and national standards for long-term care developed in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments. As part of our national seniors strategy, these standards must specify conditions and criteria the provinces and territories must meet to receive federal health and social transfer payments, with repercussions for failing to meet the outlined conditions and criteria. This would ensure a standard level of quality care, availability of equitable and consistent services across the country, and adequate levels of funding for these types of care. It would also ensure greater public accountability of government delivering on long-term care and home care.

For decades, research has shown that our global counterparts that have national standards for long-term care and home care have better health outcomes and quality of life for their older populations. Research conducted during the pandemic has reaffirmed this, demonstrating that countries with national standards experienced dramatically lower numbers of COVID-19 cases and fatalities tied to long-term care and home care.

In Canada, during the first wave, more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in long-term care facilities. We cannot let this happen again. This government needs to commit to ensuring Canadians from coast to coast to coast have access to quality care and safe care by supporting the implementation of enforced principles and national standards for long-term care.

It is time to reimagine older adult care. It is time for the federal government to take a leadership role in establishing enforceable national standards tied to funding, and it is time for territories and provinces to unite to collaborate and fix long-term and home care. We must look out for the best interests of older Canadians by supporting the implementation of enforceable national standards for long-term and home care. We need improvements in the quality and quantity of care work. We need concrete strategies and real action to ensure everyone has the right to receive quality care. This includes the right to decent work for those providing care.

Canadian care standards need to be implemented to address shortfalls and inequitable levels of care for seniors and persons with disabilities, including in long-term care, home care and palliative care. Building an inclusive and equitable recovery must mean investments in better, safer jobs and stronger care systems to support care workers, ensuring that all those who need care have access to quality, public care services. This can be done by establishing an e-health strategy that includes virtual care, expanding MyHealth Records and similar programs for patient portal information capabilities, developing secure messaging and collaboration services to enhance communication, and developing a privacy and security framework for virtual care.

According to Statistics Canada, the demographic of those aged 85 and over has doubled since 2001, and it is expected to double again by 2046. A significant proportion of those in this demographic will reside in long-term care facilities. We are all aging, and one day may find ourselves in long-term care. Let us fix it now. This federal government must invest and repair Canada's failing care systems. How we emerge from the crisis in long-term care will define us as a society.

I think that part of my concern with Motion No. 47 is the fact that we have not kept up with the issues our seniors are facing in long-term care, as well as those many other issues our seniors are facing. It seems like we have almost taken them for granted, and that they are not part of our society any more. Instead, they are locked away, and we do not have to worry about them.

However, that is not the attitude that we should be taking as a government. We should be there honouring and respecting our elders, giving them the best quality of life they possibly can have, not only now, but also for years to come. That is why we need to start improving all of our long-term care facilities and making sure they are not just places where people go to die, but places where people want to be and need to be, and where they are taken care of properly. That is what we are lacking, not only with the government, but also other governments.

To make these improvements, yes, money will have to be spent, but we will be much better as a society if we are able to accomplish this as a country united to improve the quality of care for all seniors.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with much exasperation that I rise today to talk about a motion on long-term care. The major problem is that we are in the wrong legislative assembly. This is a crucial jurisdictional issue, since the federal government does not have the necessary expertise in this area. I realize that, unfortunately, I have had to say this too often. We have had enough of the federal government's paternalistic attitude. The government needs to do its duty and its job. It should not be using the COVID-19 crisis to exploit seniors for its own ends.

We do not want to trivialize what happened in our long-term care facilities. On the contrary, we want nothing less than to give them the financial means they need. I will get back to this in my speech. I am going to give some background information and outline the reasons for which the Bloc Québécois is against the motion. I will close by reminding my colleagues of the support of certain civil society groups.

As we now know, COVID-19 mainly affected seniors. This fact, combined with the critical situation in our long-term care facilities, finally forced the Quebec government to ask for the military's help on April 22, 2020.

Barely one month later, in May 2020, negotiations between the CAQ and Liberal governments got especially tense because of the federal government's refusal to extend the military's involvement. The government then used Quebec's request for military assistance as a pretext to announce, in its throne speech, its intention to impose Canada-wide standards on long-term care facilities. That was a twisted way of imposing its requirements on the provinces, instead of agreeing to their unanimous demand for an increase in federal health transfers equal to 35% of health care system costs.

To add insult to injury, the Liberal government reiterated its intention in last fall's economic update and at the 20th telephone conference of Canada's premiers, with the NDP's blessing, of course.

The Liberals are still clinging to that idea. In the 2021 election campaign, they promised $6 billion for long-term care facilities in exchange for Canada-wide standards. However, for the past several weeks, the Quebec political media has been abuzz with the findings of various investigations into the matter. The debate is ongoing in civil society and in Quebec's National Assembly.

This is therefore not the problem. Allow me to share why the Bloc Québécois is opposed to the motion. The motion states that “we need to make sure the conditions of work reflect the care standards our seniors deserve”, which is something we agree with. We are all, as individuals, collectively responsible for taking care of our seniors. However, working conditions in long-term care homes and in private seniors' residences are not a federal jurisdiction.

The motion also states that “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”. Our response to this is that health care is not under federal jurisdiction. If the federal government truly wants to help the provinces, it should hold a summit and permanently increase funding for health care, as we have proposed.

Furthermore, the motion states that “in the opinion of the House, the government should work with the provinces and territories to...improve the quality and availability of long-term care homes and beds”. Our response to this is that Quebec already has a plan to overhaul its system and what it needs is funding.

The motion also states that the government should work with the provinces and territories to “implement strict infection prevention and control measures, including through more provincial and territorial facility inspections for long-term care homes”. Anything else? 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. This paternalism must stop.

Finally, the motion states that it should “develop a safe long-term care act collaboratively to ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve, no matter where they live.” Enough is enough. The Quebec National Assembly already unanimously opposed such federal standards.

We already had this debate before the pointless election called by the Liberal Party, which still makes me mad. In March 2021, I remember rising to speak when the NDP moved a motion to nationalize and impose standards for long-term care institutions. Members will recall that the motion was rejected by everyone, except the NDP of course. Even the Liberals voted against the motion. Here we are in the 44th Parliament, and the Liberal Party suddenly has amnesia. It has come back with the same motion.

I have to say, since the advent of the NDP-Liberal government, their position has become muddled. The one thing that does remain clear, however, is their appetite for interfering in things that do not concern them. Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, set out how jurisdictions are shared between the federal government and the provinces. Pursuant to those two sections, health is the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec.

The Liberal Party of Canada and the NDP are always trying to interfere in the jurisdictions of the provinces, especially in the area of health care. However, the federalism they hold so dear requires that each level of government respect its exclusive jurisdictions.

Federalists sometimes argue that health transfers should have conditions attached. Otherwise, the provinces will take advantage of them to lower taxes rather than provide better services to their people. Our response to that argument is that it is not the federal government's job to lecture the provincial and Quebec governments. In a democracy, it is up to voters to sanction their government.

There is currently a debate raging about the issue of long-term care and the decisions that were made during the COVID-19 crisis. This debate continues, and it is up to the Quebec government to take action to remedy the situation. Then, in October, it will be up to voters, not the Liberal Party of Canada, to decide whether they are satisfied with their government's actions. In short, Quebec already has some potential solutions, including a detailed plan to increase the capacity of long-term care facilities as mentioned in a special report by the ombudsman.

The federal government will not be able to improve the situation because it does not know what is really happening on the ground. It does not understand these unique hospital settings. In response to the special report, the Quebec government has already presented a plan to overhaul the health care system.

I would like to remind the hon. members of an important date: December 2, 2020. As the Bloc Québécois critic for seniors, I had the opportunity to speak with Quebec's minister for seniors and caregivers, Marguerite Blais. She tabled a motion to denounce the Liberals' desire to impose Canadian standards on Quebec's long-term care facilities, which I will read:

That the National Assembly reject the Government of Canada's desire to impose Canadian standards in Québec CHSLDs and long-term care facilities for the elderly, as this falls under exclusive Québec jurisdiction;

That it express its disappointment that the federal government did not include an increase in health transfer payments in its last economic update, while the provinces must cover significant health spending costs in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic;

That it call on the federal government to commit to not imposing Canadian standards in Québec CHSLDs and long-term care facilities for the elderly and to increasing health transfer payments to an amount equal to 35% of healthcare network costs.

Let us not forget that the provinces and Quebec are the ones with the expertise and experience in long-term care homes, not the federal government. Every long-term care facility has to meet safety and care quality standards in order to be permitted to operate. Standards already exist.

Obviously, the federal government has no business setting those standards for long-term care facilities on behalf of the provinces and Quebec, since it has neither the experience nor the expertise, as I said. Instead, the government should focus on doing what is expected of it and taking responsibility.

The Canadian Armed Forces' report on their experience in Quebec's long-term care facilities made it clear that there were already many standards and rules in place regarding infection prevention and control and the use of PPE, but they were not enough to stop the virus. The real issue is the ability to comply with the existing standards and rules. The main reason it is so hard to follow these rules is also clear: the labour shortage.

If the federal government really wants to help Quebec and the provinces overcome the pandemic and improve care for seniors, it must drop the paternalistic attitude, scrap its plan to impose Canada-wide standards that are ill suited for all the different social and institutional contexts, and increase health transfers, which will allow the provinces to attract and retain more health care workers.

One of the Bloc Québécois's demands is that the federal government increase health transfers to an amount equal to 35% of health care system costs. However, the government continues to say no, even though Parliament adopted a motion in the spring asking all parties to recognize the increase in transfers, which all of the parties did, except the Liberals, who once again found themselves standing alone.

Even civil society groups, such as various unions, stepped up in March 2021 to ask for the increase and explain why it was important. A Leger poll showed that 85% of people want this. FADOQ wants it. When I went to the latest summit on seniors' quality of life, everyone said they wanted an increase, no strings attached.

In conclusion, we are not the ones spoiling for a fight. The NDP-Liberal coalition is. They are delaying many of Quebec's demands, but we are not the only ones making these demands. The provinces and territories are too. These NDP-Liberal threats need to stop. Seniors must not be held hostage. The federal government must hand over the financial means to take care of them, and that means health transfers.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to participate in the second hour of debate on Motion No. 47, a motion introduced by my colleague, the hon. member of Parliament for Avalon, regarding improvements to long-term care. I am going to keep my remarks very brief today, as I recognize that the content of this motion serves to address pressing issues that should already be deemed both urgent and important by all members of the House.

This motion can be defined in two main parts. They can be categorized as a need for recognizing the problem and a need for addressing it. Primarily, the motion would require that the House recognize the long-standing issues that have plagued long-term care facilities across Canada. It calls for action to address this by requesting a joint effort in ensuring that these facilities reflect a certain standard of care that seniors deserve.

With Motion No. 47, our government is acting on its commitment to work with the provinces and territories to improve the quality and availability of long-term care homes and beds, while ensuring the implementation of strict infection and control measures and, most importantly, collaborating on the development of a safe long-term care act that would guarantee the care that seniors deserve, regardless of their geographic location across the country.

I represent the riding of Richmond Hill, a beautiful and diverse community that has only been enhanced thanks to the hard work, efforts and contributions of our senior constituents, who collectively account for almost 30% of the population in the riding. Thirty per cent is not just a statistic. This number reflects real people who have lived in our community and helped build it, grow it and make it stronger. In census 2016, there were nearly 30,000 seniors in my riding, and many local seniors are active participants in my monthly seniors community council meetings, where they are still contributing to making Richmond Hill a better place to live by sharing their ideas and advocating for how we can make life more accessible, affordable and enjoyable for their peers.

We heard from them that we need to make sure we have sufficient funds to support them and that we hold other jurisdictions, as collaborative partners, accountable for that. As such, it is only right that when they reach the later years of their adulthood, their communities and governments are there and should be there to help them access safe, healthy and dignified care spaces. This is exactly what sets the base for Motion No. 47.

Among the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one harsh reality that was brought to light: Older adults in long-term care facilities, especially those who are immunocompromised or have other underlying health conditions, were severely and disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This impact was felt not only physically but emotionally and mentally, as the residents of long-term care homes had to witness great loss while often feeling socially isolated and alone due to restrictions that were there to protect their health. This motion would only build on the previous investments made by our government to improve conditions in long-term care, such as up to $4 billion allocated for improving the standards of care provided in these facilities.

We acknowledge that health care is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Government of Canada provides financial support that empowers the provinces and territories' delivery and planning of health services. This explains why each provincial and territorial government is able to enforce its own legislation and regulations for long-term care services. However, given the variations and inconsistencies across Canada, we know that there is a need for our federal government to help facilitate cross-country coordination.

Long-term care homes in my community of Richmond Hill and across Canada serve as vital services and resources that should be subjected to a similar set of standards, regardless of which provincial or territorial jurisdiction they operate in. With Motion No. 47, we can work toward making this very needed objective a reality through teamwork with the provinces and territories, while respecting their jurisdictional authority.

This motion is good for seniors, it is good for the overall health care system and it is good for Canada. I urge all members to join me in supporting it in its goal to make long-term care safer.

Before I conclude, seeing as this is my last intervention on legislation for this parliamentary session, I want to take a moment to thank all of my hon. colleagues for their hard work here in the House, as well as my constituents in Richmond Hill for once again trusting me to serve as their voice in Ottawa.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, we have heard throughout this debate that seniors were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and we know that this was particularly true for seniors living in long-term care.

In the previous Parliament, I had the opportunity to initiate a study at the HUMA committee to review the impact of COVID-19 on the financial and social health and well-being of seniors. The purpose of the study was to understand the impact on seniors, take lessons from that understanding and make specific recommendations to improve supports for seniors. We know that long-term care was central to that study, and the committee heard important testimony that spoke directly to the experiences and needs of seniors, their families and staff in care homes.

I was relieved that in this Parliament, the HUMA committee completed that study. The report entitled “The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Well-Being of Seniors” was tabled in the House just recently. Similar to recommendations in that report, the motion being debated today calls on the government to work collaboratively with provincial and territorial governments to ensure that seniors receive adequate care.

I certainly appreciate and support the member for Avalon calling on his own government to act, but action must be taken. We know that the status quo is unacceptable and that the government can do better.

The conversation really turns to the Liberal government and the seniors minister. It is not enough to pass the motion in the House. The needle needs to move, and we know and have heard that action is past due. There are areas that fall under federal jurisdiction that can be acted on in the immediate term, and while we know that provincial jurisdictions must absolutely be respected, especially as priorities and needs may different regionally, the federal government can certainly provide leadership.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I apologize for interrupting the hon. member, but the hon. member for Avalon has a right of reply for five minutes.

The hon. member for Avalon.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, I want to start off my speech this evening by thanking the colleagues who have reached out to me to voice their support for Motion No. 47 and have spoken in support of the motion in our first hour of debate and again here today.

I know that each and every one of us is plagued with the state of our long-term care facilities. Members' constituents, like mine, are asking us to take the state of long-term care in this country seriously. I believe, in looking around the chamber today, that I can confidently say we have bipartisan consensus that something needs to be done.

Organizations in my province, such as the NL Seniors' Coalition, Advocates for Senior Citizens' Rights and SeniorsNL, have all done a great deal of work over the years in educating on, consulting on and researching the impact that this ever-changing world has on our seniors, and in advocating for better standards of care, especially in long-term care, not just in my province, but across the country.

I want to take my time today to address some of the concerns colleagues have expressed in previous debate on Motion No. 47. I think it is important that we continue the debate today and move this conversation forward.

I first want to talk about how funding is critical to ensuring that long-term care facilities in Canada are held to a national standard. While Motion No. 47 does not tie any monetary value to implementing a national standard for long-term care across the country, we in this chamber all know that funding is the foundation of safe and well-regulated long-term care in Canada.

Our government recognizes this and has been stepping up to the plate to do what we can to support long-term care facilities in being the safest they can be. In the 2020 fall economic statement, we announced the establishment of a $1-billion safe long-term care fund. We have invested $38.5 million to hire and train 4,000 personal support worker interns to address the significant labour shortages that exist for long-term care homes.

We know there is more to do and more we can do, but I believe that by developing and enforcing a national standard of care throughout this country for all long-term care facilities, we can give the provinces and territories, which have jurisdiction over this industry, the framework they need to determine what funding and support are needed. We can then work with our provincial and territorial partners to determine how and where our federal government can help implement these standards.

Next I would like to speak to some concerns raised about seniors aging at home, living out their golden years in their own residences and not ending up in long-term care. I believe that Canadian seniors should have the choice of where they want to be as they get older. Everyone has different needs as they age, and I believe that seniors choosing to live in their own home in their later years is a wonderful choice. Our government supports that decision fully.

Our recently launched age well at home initiative is proof of that. Budget 2021 provided $90 million in funding that will deliver practical support to help low-income and otherwise vulnerable seniors continue to live safely, independently and comfortably in their own homes and communities. The initiative will help seniors with at-home tasks, both big and small.

The reason Motion No. 47 focuses on creating a long-term care act and developing a set of standards for long-term care facilities really boils down to choice. When seniors can and choose to remain in their own homes as they age, they have the freedom of choice. We can all think of the best long-term care facility in our own ridings and would hope that all facilities are adhering to the same standard of care for all residents, but we know that is not always the case.

My hope with this motion is to ensure that every senior, whether they choose to stay in their own home or move into a long-term care facility, has the same freedom and choice in their care and treatment as they age. Setting out a minimum standard of care in this country and ensuring that our seniors know what that is and know what to expect from a facility are the main objectives of this motion.

I want to finish off today by reiterating something I said in my first speech before the House.

We recognize that our provincial and territorial partners have primary jurisdiction over long-term care in Canada. However, the federal government still has a vital role to play. The provinces and territories cannot do it alone. Our federal government has the resources, statistical knowledge and national expertise to help them improve the quality of long-term care in their province or territory. Only if we work collaboratively, as we did throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, will we be able to secure peace of mind for all Canadians who are residents, future residents or loved ones of someone in long-term care in any province or territory in this country.

I would like to thank colleagues again for their support of Motion No. 47 and for the opportunity to speak to this again today. When we look back on our legacies as parliamentarians, I think we all want to look back on them favourably, like we did the right things to benefit the most Canadians. For me, I would like to look back on this opportunity and say that we did the right thing and did what was best for those who paved the way for us and built this country: our seniors.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

I would like to request a recorded vote.

Improvements to Long-Term CarePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 21, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms), be read the second time and referred to a committee, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

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6:30 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill C-21, an act to amend certain acts and to make certain consequential amendments, specifically with respect to firearms. I know that there has been a lot said about this bill and how it would impact Canadians. I know that there have been some unfortunate comments that, in my opinion, do not exactly reflect what is in this bill, so I will use the opportunity today to try to highlight exactly what this bill would do.

First and foremost, this bill would establish a national freeze on handguns. Individuals would no longer have the ability to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns. This is extremely reasonable in today's society with what we are seeing going on not just outside of our borders in the United States, but also as we have actually witnessed here in Canada. We know that for the vast majority of those who are looking to harm individuals and utilize a gun for an illegal purpose, the weapon of choice is a handgun, and it is extremely important to ensure that there is a restricted ability for people to access these.

There would be exemptions, and there are exemptions in the bill, that ensure that those who require a weapon for security or policing purposes, etc., would obviously be exempt for those reasons. They would be able to make purchases for those reasons.

We also know that a certain number of people out there enjoy using a handgun for sport: for shooting at a range or in various ways. They utilize that. Although it might be more challenging to access a handgun in order to continue using it for that purpose, this bill certainly makes it known that this is not about attempting to regulate those individuals or prevent those individuals from utilizing a handgun for that purpose. In many cases, for sport, those individuals would not be impacted.

This bill would also establish red flag and yellow flag laws to expand the licence revocation process when it is deemed necessary in the right context.

The bill would also combat firearms smuggling and trafficking, notably by increasing the maximum penalty of imprisonment for indictable weapons offences. This is extremely important to reference because this, along with the mandatory minimum sentences bill that the House has also been debating in the past few weeks, is a talking point for Conservatives, with respect to minimum sentences being dropped primarily because the Supreme Court has determined that to be a necessity. Because those are being dropped, the Conservatives are suggesting that the government is being more lenient on those who commit certain crimes that would have otherwise been, and currently would be, regulated by mandatory minimums.

It is actually the opposite, because although the government does feel that when it comes to sentencing, judges should be the ones who are determining what sentencing is, we also recognize that for some of these indictable offences, particularly those around weapons, we would be giving greater sentencing capacity to change that maximum sentence from 10 years to 14 years. Indeed, when judges find it appropriate to increase the sentence even further, they would be given more capacity to do that.

Of course, as indicated by other people who spoke before me, there is a provision within this bill to prohibit mid-velocity replica airguns. The reasons for that are quite notable, despite the fact that we have heard some conversation about the fact that different sporting activities might from time to time require these airguns.

It is very important to point out that this bill, at least in my opinion, is not about targeting law-abiding gun owners.

Most of my uncles in particular either own hunting lodges, where they hunt with their friends and families, or have been participating as hunters for generations, quite frankly. On my wife's side of the family, my father-in-law grew up on a hunting and fishing lodge. I am quite familiar with the needs and requirements of hunters specifically, and I must admit I have never heard one of them talk about the need to use a handgun or an AR-15 for the purpose of hunting.

What we are really trying to do here is curb the use of guns for illegal purposes: for the shootings we have seen in our country and continue to witness in the United States to the south of us. That is what the issue really is here.

I know the default, and quite often used, excuse from the other side of the House is to ask why we are not going after those who are trying to bring the guns across the border, because a significant number of guns that are used in criminal activity are coming from across the border.

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6:35 p.m.


Jake Stewart Conservative Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

I like my gun.

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6:35 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, that is the default reaction we hear from the Conservatives and continue to, literally as I speak right now. I am being heckled by them.

If one believes nothing else about—

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6:35 p.m.


Jake Stewart Conservative Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

I like my handgun the best; that's my favourite.

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6:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order, please.

I want to remind the hon. member who is heckling the parliamentary secretary that if he happens to have comments or questions he should wait until it is questions and comments time. There will be five minutes for questions and comments, and the official opposition will have the first question. I would ask him to wait until then because it is not respectful to be doing what he is doing at the moment.

The hon. parliamentary secretary has the floor.

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6:35 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, if the member wants, I would be happy to accept a unanimous consent motion to double my question time to 10 minutes, and then I could make sure I get to all the questions the Conservatives want to ask me. I would be more than happy to do that.

What I was getting at is that if one does not believe in anything else, they should just look at the data that is out there. The countries that have the stricter gun laws are the countries that have fewer shootings. If one considers no other information than that plain and simple fact, one is left trying to decide whether the trade-off is deemed acceptable. Do we want stricter gun laws that result in fewer gun fatalities and homicides in particular? The data also shows there is a significant decrease in police officers who are killed in the line of duty by somebody who uses a gun on them.

For me, that trade-off is pretty simple. Do we have to make things more restrictive in order to save more lives? All we have to do is look to the countries that have been quite successful in this. Other people have mentioned them throughout the debate today. The trade-off is quite simple for me. I am more interested in saving lives than preserving individuals' opportunity to hold on to and carry a firearm.

I respect the fact that there are others on the other side of the House whose tolerance for that risk is different from mine. It is just a reality that we have differing opinions on this. However, I will stand firmly in my position that I do not see the need for handguns to be on our streets or to be held on to, or that people need to have a handgun. I do not personally see the reason for it.

As I said, all those in my family and extended family who I know have hunted for generations, have never once, during our own individual discussions about this issue around the dinner table, talked about the need for a handgun. Yes, there are concerns from time to time about weapons, and in particular those used for hunting. I can respect that, but I just do not think handguns fall into that category, nor has any hunter I have ever spoken with agreed with that sentiment.

I will leave it at that. If the member wants to put forward a unanimous consent motion to get me to answer twice as many questions, I would be happy to do that to make sure I can answer all those Conservative questions out there.

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6:40 p.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader indicated in his speech that he did not believe this bill would negatively impact law-abiding gun owners. I would take a little exception to that. As a licence-holder for restricted firearms, I know this would very negatively affect law-abiding gun owners.

I am wondering why the member cannot see how the bill would do that and, at the same time, I am hoping that his position in his speech does not put him offside with his family members.

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6:40 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I will address the last part first. I think what puts me offside with my family members more is the rhetoric that comes from the lobbying groups and, quite frankly, to be honest, the Conservatives. It is not until I have the opportunity to correct that information with my family members that they then seem to be much more at ease.

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6:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!