Long-term care facilities, especially those in Ontario and Quebec, have been hard-hit by outbreaks of COVID-19. Premiers Ford and Legault specifically requested the assistance of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) medical teams in April to help manage the outbreak in some long-term care facilities. A report written by the CAF regarding the situation in five Ontario homes has now come to light.
The findings are certainly shocking and demonstrate the serious long-standing challenges faced by the long-term care system. The pandemic has resulted in unprecedented impacts on staffing and protocols, which clearly had cascading effects. Premier Ford stated that the reports were “heartbreaking,” “shocking,” and the “hardest thing (he’s) had to read as Premier.” He announced a full investigation into the report and noted one death had been referred to the coroner’s office. Premier Ford also called on the federal government for further support and indicated immediate steps were going to be implemented to stabilize the system.
Report findings included the repeated use of medical equipment between COVID-19 patients and others, without disinfection, the improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by staff and doctors, staff reusing gloves or not washing hands between resident interactions, residents calling for help with no response for up to two hours, and the presence of insects.
The issue dominated both today’s federal Question Period as well as Premier Ford’s daily news update. A report on Quebec’s long-term care facilities is expected tomorrow. Many questions regarding the inspection of long-term care homes have also been raised and these are expected to be addressed by the province as it starts to implement solutions.
Federal Rent and Business Supports
Prime Minister Trudeau announced on Monday that the application system for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program has opened for property owners. Administered by the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation, CECRA offers unsecured, forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to reduce the rent owed by impacted small business tenants, and to meet operating expenses on commercial properties. Property owners must offer a minimum of a 75 per cent rent reduction for the months of April, May, and June 2020.
House of Commons Returns – But for How Long?
As businesses re-open across the country, federal MPs are debating a new schedule and format for the House of Commons. Since March 13, the House has only engaged in “full sittings” on five occasions, and these were limited to COVID related legislation. Monday marked the first full day of “regular” House sitting with a traditional Question Period, the first since March 13.
Members of Parliament are debating a Liberal Government motion on how often the House of Commons will sit, and what that format will look like. Currently, the government has only scheduled five sittings between now and September 21 to provide Parliamentary authority for government spending. The all-party COVID-19 committee as well as other select committees would continue to meet remotely but other regular business of the House, including Opposition Days and Private Members Business, would come to a halt.
Given the minority government, the Liberals require the support of one party to implement their proposed schedule. Both the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois are opposed to this small number of in-person sessions. However, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh suggested he would support the Liberal motion if the government mandates that all employers provide ten days of paid sick leave. Prime Minister Trudeau responded by saying he would work with the provinces to see if they are amenable to this proposal. With the NDP’s support, it is expected the motion on reduced sittings will pass.