Ontario Premier Doug Ford is telling the prime minister to “put his money where his mouth is” when it comes to long-term care.
Ford was reacting to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments Thursday that Canada’s provincially regulated long-term care system, which has been plagued by deadly COVID-19 outbreaks, isn’t working.
“It is a provincial responsibility so it is them who have failed to support our seniors,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday morning. “But of course the federal government is happy to be there to help.”
At an afternoon news conference, Ford said he was “shocked” by Trudeau’s comments and implied they were “off kilter.”
“Put your money where your mouth is,” said Ford. “Help us out, we can’t do it alone. We’re all supposed to be in this together.”
Ford said that throughout the pandemic, Trudeau’s government has been “pretty good” at working as a team. “I’m not knocking the guy. He’s just… I don’t know. I might say a few things that are off kilter, too, some days, but we need his help.”
Their comments come after an analysis by the Canadian Institute of Health found that Canada’s long-term care residents accounted for 81 per cent of all reported novel coronavirus deaths country-wide, compared to an average of 42 per cent in 16 other developed nations, including Australia, Spain, the U.K. and U.S.
Canada also had fewer health-care workers per 100 senior residents on average.
Ford, whose government has come under fire for not doing more to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario nursing homes, called the report “unfair.”
Watch: What went wrong with Ontario’s long-term care homes? Story continues below.
He pointed out that the total number of long-term care residents who have died of the disease in Canada is actually much lower than other countries. Canada’s homes have experienced 5,324 deaths, compared to Spain at 17,730 deaths or the U.S. at 30,000 deaths.
The province called in the military this spring to provide support in five Ontario homes that struggled with COVID-19 outbreaks, and families of seniors in care have filed class action lawsuits against homes, accusing them of negligence during the pandemic.
Ford reiterated Thursday that his government has provided $243 million in emergency funding to long-term care homes, to boost staffing and pay to cope with the disease.
The federal government finances only about a quarter of health-care costs, while provinces have to pay for the rest, Ford said, echoing his Quebec counterpart.
“We’re telling Mr. Trudeau, if you really want to help us in long-term care facilities, please increase your transfers to health to all provinces,” Premier Francois Legault told the Canadian Press in May. His province has also been grappling with a surge of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. “Then we’ll be able to hire, pay better and have more staff in our long-term care facilities.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Trudeau’s government increased transfers to provinces by a total of $500 million.
Trudeau said his government wants to respect provincial jurisdiction but is considering implementing a national strategy for long-term care.
Ford said his government is waiting to make changes until it receives a working group report that will suggest broad reforms to improve the long-term care sector.
“As soon as we get that, I want to give long-term care more money,” Ford said.