Prime Minister suggests national inquiry into long-term care possible

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Advocates for the elderly have long said neglect in long-term care homes has been going on for decades and is widespread. Now, the Prime Minister is signalling he is open to a national inquiry to improve care for seniors living in those facilities.

The admission came during the second day of questioning by reporters on the neglect and abuse at five long-term care homes in Ontario.

“Absolutely. We need to have conversations about how we care for our elders in this country,” said Justin Trudeau. “Respecting provincial jurisdiction. Respecting that there are areas that have greater success.”

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister admitted he was angry and shocked. On Wednesday, he was ready to talk about how the federal government could help provinces, particularly Ontario and Quebec, improve care in the long-term.

Repeatedly, Trudeau said his government would respect provincial jurisdiction. Long-term care is a provincial responsibility.

He said he plans to bring it up in the weekly call with the premiers, but if Trudeau has ideas on how to improve long-term care, he was keeping those to himself.

“I’m not going to short-circuit that conversation by putting forward aggressive proposals right now,” he said. “But, what I will say is the federal government is there to support and to work with provinces in areas of their jurisdiction they are able to give Canadians the care that they, and their families, expect.”

At the moment, the focus remains on improving care immediately as long-term care homes cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ontario and Quebec have both asked the Canadian Armed Forces to extend their deployment in some facilities.

“But it’s not a long-term solution,” declared Trudeau. “We need to make sure that we are working carefully with the provinces to make sure that they are able to solve this problem for the medium and long-term, and we will work with them on that.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has also requested an increase in transfer payments for long-term care. Trudeau did not rule it out, but also did not make any commitments.