TORONTO — Two-thirds of Canadians believe the government should nationalize long-term care facilities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, according to a new poll.
The survey from Angus Reid Institute found that 66 per cent want the government to take over private long-term care homes, while 34 per cent disagree with the idea.
The strongest support for nationalization is in Quebec at 77 per cent and the lowest is in Saskatchewan, where only 49 per cent think it should happen.
COVID-19 has killed thousands of residents in Canada’s long-term care facilities. Eighty-two per cent of the Canadians who have died of the disease lived in long-term care, according to research by the International Long Term Care Policy Network.
Earlier: Premier Doug Ford says he can relate to Canadians who have relatives in long-term care homes.
The facilities fall under provincial jurisdiction and are not subject to the Canada Health Act, which sets out the health-care services that must be universally available.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said that there’s “no question” that private homes must be nationalized after the pandemic.
“I think we need to end them,” he said on May 10. “Profit should not be the motive when it comes to how we care for our seniors.”
Neither of the premiers of Ontario nor Quebec, the provinces with the highest death rates in long-term care, have committed to cutting out for-profit care homes altogether.
But Premier François Legault of Quebec, where 2,713 have died in the homes known as CHSLDs, has raised the possibility.
“These are living environments, but they are also care environments — just as important as hospitals,” he said on May 15.
“A lot of Quebecers are not proud of what happened in CHSLDs, myself first.”
In Ontario, where 1,531 have died in long-term care, the premier says the system needs an overhaul but that it could be too costly for the government to fund all facilities.
“We aren’t in the financial spot to be able to fund the whole system, but I’d love to sit down, and I’ve mentioned this to the prime minister and deputy prime minister, we need their support,” Premier Doug Ford said May 6.
His office later said that his talks with the federal government haven’t included the possibility of doing away with privatized homes.
“It’s not really a conversation we’re having right now, at all,” Ford’s spokesperson Ivana Yelich told iPolitics on May 11.
The two largest operators of long-term care and seniors homes in Canada make hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. Chartwell, which is chaired by the former Ontario premier who expanded the privatization of long-term care, made USD$684 million in revenue last year, according to business analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet. Revera, a company that is being sued for negligence over its response to the pandemic, makes USD$694 million a year.
The Angus Reid Institute poll found that feelings about the role of for-profit care homes are divided by political beliefs.
Only 47 per cent of respondents who voted Conservative in the last election believe the homes should be nationalized, while three-quarters of respondents who voted Liberal or NDP support government takeovers.
The institute surveyed 1,777 adults through its Angus Reid Forum on May 18 and 19. A probability sample of that size has a margin of error +/- 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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