POLITICS
05/27/2020 16:58 EDT | Updated 05/27/2020 18:07 EDT

Feds Say They’re Powerless To Improve Care Homes Owned By Pension Board

One company being accused of negligence in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic is owned by a crown corporation.

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press
President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos responds to a question during a news conference April 21, 2020 in Ottawa.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the federal government must intervene with a national chain of long-term care homes — that are privately operated but owned by a crown corporation — that has been accused of negligence. 

“I don’t accept ... the response that they can’t do anything about it,” Singh told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday. “I reject that.”

He said there’s “no way” that it “makes any sense” for the government to say it can’t interfere with the operations of a crown corporation. 

PSP Investments, the federal agency that manages pensions for federal employees, the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces, owns a 100 per cent stake in Revera Inc, which has been accused of being “systemically negligent” in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh stands during question period in the House of Commons on in Ottawa on May 25, 2020.

Revera owns hundreds of long-term care homes in Canada, the United States and United Kingdom. At least 164 people have died with the novel coronavirus in Revera’s Canadian homes, HuffPost Canada first reported May 14. 

The federal government should audit conditions at Revera’s homes, Singh said, and bring long-term care under the jurisdiction of the Canada Health Act, the legislation that covers universally provided health-care services.

“There’s absolutely ways for the government to ensure that there is the proper standards being met,” he said.

But President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos disagrees. He said Wednesday that PSP Investments operates at arms length from the government.

“PSP, as we call it, is an independent organization,” the government minister told reporters. 

“But as with all institutions, we expect PSP ... to be mindful of the situation that we are now learning more about, and to do what is right for themselves and for Canadians.”

Earlier: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says long-term care must be fixed. Story continues after video.

 

Revera staff and family members have said the company failed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading through its homes. Residents and their relatives are suing the company in a class action lawsuit that is now seeking $100 million in damages.

In previous interviews with HuffPost, employees and family members have said residents who tested positive for COVID-19 or who had contact with suspected cases were not isolated and that the company did not provide staff with personal protective equipment (PPE) until the outbreaks were well underway. 

The family members also said Revera has told them very little about the impact of the outbreaks on their loved ones. 

Revera has said that its staff is learning more about this “very aggressive virus” every day and that it will respond to the class action through the courts. It also said it followed ministry guidelines on PPE throughout the pandemic.

A union that has 140,000 members’ pensions invested with PSP Investments says provincial governments should take over management of Revera’s homes. 

The president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has asked PSP’s CEO “to immediately take action to safeguard the interests of Revera residents and personnel” because of the “life-threatening conditions” reported at the company’s homes, the union said in a statement.

“The responses provided by PSP Investments have, quite frankly, been inadequate and dismissive,” Chris Aylward wrote in his letter to PSP CEO Neil Cunningham, a copy of which was provided to HuffPost.

PSP Investments did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

With files from Sherina Harris