Conservatives vote down public inquiry into long-term care homes

(File photo courtesy © CanStockPhoto.com/Leaf)

Ontario’s NDP Leader calls it “unconscionable” after the Conservative government threw cold water on its motion to hold a full independent public inquiry into the province’s long-term care system.

The motion was introduced Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the Ford government said it would hold an independent commission into how COVID-19 spread through long-term care and retirement homes across the province.

“For the government to review the government with a behind-closed-doors government-controlled commission is not good enough,” declared Andrea Horwath.

Of the 1,919 deaths so far across Ontario, 1,413 have been in long-term care homes, and there are outbreaks at 190 facilities as of Tuesday.

The Ontario government also requested the aid of the Canadian Armed Forces at five facilities in the province.

The commission is not expected to start its work until September. In the meantime, the government will finalize details like how to protect residents and staff from future outbreaks, and when it will report back to the province.

However, the NDP said only a public inquiry could find and fix the problems that plague long-term care. It noted a step the government could take right away to protect staff and residents would be to make a $4 an hour raise for personal support workers working during the pandemic permanent. It also pointed to creating minimum care hours for each resident and regular inspections mandatory.

“To fix the system,” said Horwath, “we need to give a voice to seniors, workers, experts, and families who have lost loved ones. We need to closely examine the role of private, for-profit corporations.”

“Voting no to a public inquiry is salt in the wound of families grieving the loss of loved ones to COVID-19 in long-term care, and for health care heroes who are run off their feet and still pleading for protective equipment,” she continued. “It is a cause for all of us to worry that the painful, dangerous, decades-in-the-making problems in long-term care are not going to change.”