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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusSeniors

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

Just Posted

Gabriola Island poet Naomi Beth Wakan’s latest book is ‘Wind on the Heath.’ (Photo courtesy Elias Wakan)
Former Nanaimo poet laureate revisits past poems in latest collection

Gabriola Island’s Naomi Beth Wakan presents career-spanning ‘Wind on the Heath’

Stock photo
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Let’s find a cure for potato pox

What happened to the clean-skinned potato of my youth, asks letter writer

An app available through the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s website can help students during COVID times. (Stock photo)
New library app can help families with online learning

Sample tests, virtual flashcards available through Vancouver Island Regional Library’s website

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale as owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

The current boat used by Rugged Coast Research Society for remote shoreline cleanup operations will be replaced by a landing craft that will allow society members to haul four times as much marine garbage per trip from Vancouver Island’s remote shorelines. (Agathe Bernard photo/Rugged Coast Research Society)
Nanaimo-based research group needs bigger boat for coastal cleanups

Rugged Coast Research Society raising cash for landing craft to pull trash from remote shorelines

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

Snuneymuxw artist Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is among the artists participating in the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Rain Shadow exhibit. His piece, ‘We Fell from the Sky/Together and Apart,’ depicts a Snuneymuxw creation story. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores the ways people think about place

‘Rain Shadow’ features work mostly by Vancouver Island and Gulf Island artists

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Most Read