Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said today that a re-elected Liberal government would spend $9 billion to address the dangerous shortfalls in Canada’s long-term care sector that were exposed by the pandemic.
“As we learn the difficult lessons of this pandemic, we must make sure tragedies like this never happen again,” Trudeau told a news conference in Victoria, B.C.
A $9 billion investment would be a significant increase on the government’s long-term care commitment in the 2021 budget, which called for new spending of $3 billion over five years, starting in 2022-23.
The Liberals say the increased investment would be used to improve the quality and availability of long-term care beds.
Long-term care residents accounted for around 80 percent of all reported COVID-19 deaths during the first wave of the pandemic and continued to account for a disproportionate share of deaths until vaccines were made widely available.
The Liberal plan also calls for the creation of a new Safe Long-Term Care Act, which would set national standards of care in a sector that is at the moment governed almost entirely by the provinces and territories.
Mr. Trudeau said a Liberal government also would push for a new $25 per hour minimum wage for personal support workers — although achieving that new standard would also require cooperation from the provinces and territories.
Mr. Trudeau said his government wants to secure higher wages for those workers through investments and partnerships with provincial and territorial governments.
An early response from Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet suggests that efforts to develop those partnerships, at least with Quebec, will be met with some resistance.
“I don’t want to hear it. It’s not his business,” Mr. Blanchet said in French at a news conference shortly after Mr. Trudeau’s ended. He accused the Liberal leader of meddling in an area outside of the federal government’s jurisdiction.
“If Mr. Trudeau decides to put money into long-term care … write your cheque, send the cheque to Quebec and that’s it,” he added.
Liberals want to train 50,000 new Personal Support Workers
The promised additional spending would also be used to train up to 50,000 new personal support workers
“To the personal support workers who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, truly you are our heroes,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The Liberals say they would also double the Home Accessibility Tax Credit from $10,000 to $20,000. That credit can be used for renovations that help seniors stay in their homes longer.
A report published earlier this month by the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that long-term care improvements would cost taxpayers $13.7 billion.
“Canada’s Conservatives understand the struggles that seniors had during this pandemic. That’s why Erin O’Toole will introduce a new law on failing to provide the necessities of life, invest $3 billion in infrastructure funding to renovate long-term care homes and increase the number of personal support workers in Canada,” wrote Conservative spokesperson Mathew Clancy in an email.
The Conservative election platform also calls for more partnerships with private non-profit operators.
The NDP has proposed a starkly different approach in their platform, which calls for the end of privatized long-term care and the creation of a public long-term care system.
The Green Party has not yet released its election platform but the party earlier this year called for numerous changes, including the introduction of national standards of care, the removal of profit from the system and higher pay for workers.
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