Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said today that the re-elected Liberal government will spend $9 billion to address critical shortages in Canada’s long-term care sector hit by the pandemic.
“As we learn the hard lessons from this pandemic, we must make sure that such tragedies do not happen again,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Victoria, British Columbia.
The investment of $9 billion would be a significant increase in the government’s commitment to long-term care in the 2021 budget, which called for $3 billion in new spending over five years, starting in 2022-23.
Liberals say the increased investment will be used to improve the quality and availability of long-term care beds.
Long-term care residents accounted for about 80 percent of all reported COVID-19 deaths during the first wave of the pandemic, and they continued to account for a disproportionate proportion of deaths until vaccines became more widely available.
Watch | Liberal leader Justin Trudeau talks about his plans for long-term care
The liberal plan also calls for the creation of a new Safe Long-Term Care Act, which would set national standards for care in a sector that is currently governed entirely by provinces and territories.
Trudeau said the Liberal government will also push for a new minimum wage of $25 per hour for personal support workers — although achieving this new standard will also require cooperation from provinces and territories.
Trudeau said his government wants to secure higher wages for these workers through investments and partnerships with provincial and territorial governments.
The early response from Quebec’s bloc leader, Yves-François Blanchett, suggests that efforts to develop those partnerships, at least with Quebec, will meet with some resistance.
“I don’t want to hear that. It’s not his business,” Blanchett said in French at a news conference shortly after Trudeau’s term ended. The Liberal leader was accused of meddling in an area outside the jurisdiction of the federal government.
He added: “If Mr. Trudeau decides to put money into long-term care… write your check, send the check to Quebec and that’s it.”
Watch | Quebec bloc leader Yves Francois Blanchett responds to liberals’ long-term care plan
The Liberals want to train 50,000 new PSW
The promised additional spending will also be used to train up to 50,000 new personal support workers
“To the personal support staff who have been on the front lines of this pandemic, you truly are our heroes,” Trudeau said.
The Liberals say they will also double the home access tax credit from $10,000 to $20,000. This 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.
“Canadian governors understand the hardships seniors have faced 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 staff in Canada,” Conservative Party spokesman Matthew Clancy wrote in an email.
The Conservative Election Program also calls for more partnerships with nonprofit private operators.
The NDP has proposed an entirely different approach in its program, which calls for ending privatized long-term care and creating a public long-term care system.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the Liberals’ plans to tackle long-term care “disturbing”, in part because Trudeau voted against Singh’s opposition proposal to end for-profit operations in long-term care in March.
“We know the profit and long-term care have directly resulted in some of the horrific conditions we’ve seen our loved ones and the elderly have been dealing with,” Singh said today.
The Green Party has yet to launch its electoral platform, but earlier this year the party called for several changes, including introducing national standards of care, removing profits from the system and increasing wages for workers.