Long-Term Care Still Challenging Governments

Federal Update

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new supports for health care, air transportation, business supports and enhancing the Nutrition North Program for communities in Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Looking ahead, the Prime Minister indicated that further adjustments are forthcoming to the federal economic response plan, including measures for students and essential workers, enhancements to the Canada Emergency Business Account, and new supports on commercial rents.

However, a return to economic “normal” remains several weeks away, with the Prime Minister emphasizing that Canada will have to remain vigilant until a vaccine is found. In terms of planning for the eventual re-opening of the economy, discussions remain ongoing with the provinces and territories.

Long-Term Care Pressures Remain

The pressures facing the long-term care sector continue to dominate concerns at both the federal level and in Ontario, with further measures expected in the coming days at the provincial level.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the province will be launching an enhanced plan for long-term care tomorrow, calling the situation in long-term care homes a “wildfire.” To try to minimize the further spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, the government announced it is issuing of an emergency order later today to prevent frontline staff from working in multiple facilities.  Noting that Ontario’s hospitals have not faced the surge they thought they would to date, the Premier indicated that resources from hospitals will be re-allocated to address staffing challenges in long-term care facilities.

Since releasing updated guidelines for the long-term care sector, the federal government continues to receive questions on how it is supporting the sector. While the federal government is in conversation with the provinces and open to support for workers in the sector, responsibility for the sector remains a provincial jurisdiction.

Ontario’s Legislature Makes a Brief Return

With the province reporting nearly 8,000 cases of COVID-19, Ontario’s Legislature returned on Tuesday for an emergency sitting. Twenty-eight MPPs formed the quorum required to extend the current provincial state of emergency, first declared on March 17th. Ontario’s state of emergency is now extended until May 12th, with Premier Ford stating that the extension is necessary to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Premier Ford also confirmed that students will not be returning to classrooms on May 4th, noting that Education Minister Stephen Lecce will be providing an update in the coming days.

In addition, the government passed a second piece of legislation, Bill 189, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act, which includes:

  • Allowing school boards to continue to charge fees on new construction in order to retain a vital source of revenue for new school projects
  • A commitment to the safety of students and staff upon the reopening of schools
  • Temporarily suspending student loan payments for OSAP borrowers and a six-month interest-free moratorium on OSAP loans
  • Providing extensions for recently expired or expiring development charge by-laws and establishing authority for the Minister to suspend time limits related to municipal planning matters
  • Extending the deadline for municipalities to submit their Community Safety and Well-Being plans to January 2021

Ontario’s Legislature will reconvene on May 12th, when MPPs will have the choice to renew the emergency declaration again, if needed.