NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pledges to end for-profit long-term care if elected

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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — An NDP government would ban the opening of any new for-profit care homes for seniors, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters on campaign trail in Mississauga, Ont., he said his party, if elected, would implement a plan to take profit out of long-term care homes and would create national care standards to hold institutions to account.

"It is wrong that for-profits exist in the system," Singh said.

He said seniors living in for-profit facilities had higher infection and death rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singh made the comments outside the office of Revera, a for-profit company and one of the largest long-term care home operators in the country. It is wholly owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment, the Crown corporation managing public servants' pensions.

If elected, Singh said he'd nationalize Revera and make it public.

"We fund long-term care and some of that money is going to the pockets of shareholders," Singh said.

"That is wrong. It should be going to (protecting and caring) for our loved ones."

He said he'd work with provinces and territories, which have jurisdiction over long-term care homes, but admitted it would be a challenge.

"It's not going to be easy, but it is essential and we have to get profit out of long-term care," Singh said.

He said he'd use "all the tools" at the federal government's disposal, including the use of the Canada Health Act, to get for-profit companies out of the industry.

Long-term care homes were devastated by COVID-19 across the country.

The Ryerson University National Institute on Aging has tracked 15,217 COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents since March 2020, which amounts to 57 per cent of all deaths from the pandemic in Canada to date.

Nearly 3,800 people have died from COVID-19 in Ontario's nursing homes since the pandemic hit in early 2020.

An independent commission found long-term care homes were underfunded, suffered severe staffing shortages, had outdated infrastructure and poor oversight. Those factors, the commissioners said, contributed to the deadly toll in Ontario.

Singh said federal money for long-term care homes would have conditions attached to it.

"We provide funding and that funding should go toward the best quality of care, it should go toward staffing, it should not go toward profits," he said.

"We need to do better."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau last week said a re-elected Liberal government would give provinces up to $9 billion over the next five years to hike wages and train more workers in Canada's troubled long-term care facilities.

Trudeau said he would work with the provinces to implement national standards for long-term care homes, but won't micromanage long-term care, which falls under provincial jurisdiction.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet called on Trudeau to give up on the idea of creating national standards for long-term care homes.

Blanchet instead urged the federal government to provide Quebec with a "fair share" of funding through health transfers in order to improve care for the elderly.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2021.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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