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Most of us… support nationalizing nursing homes

As union led campaigns take shape to nationalize the country’s long-term care homes, a new poll finds that the majority of Canadians would support a government takeover of these facilities.

According to data released by the Angus Reid Institute, 66 per cent of people say they are in favour of nationalized long-term care homes to standardize and increase the health and safety outcomes for residents.

The pandemic has disproportionately hit Canada’s long-term care facilities with more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 related deaths occurring in seniors’ homes.

Out of all provinces, Ontario and Quebec have been the most impacted. In Ontario, more than 280 facilities have reported outbreaks, resulting in 1,500 deaths. Quebec has had 270 homes report outbreaks with more than 2,000 fatalities.

Last week, the Department of National Defence also reported 28 Canadians service members (12 in Ontario and 16 in Quebec) who tested positive for the virus after serving in homes.

A provincial breakdown showed that support for nationalized facilities is the strongest in Quebec (77 per cent), Ontario (66 per cent) and British Columbia (66 per cent).

Survey data showed that household income did not have a huge impact of opinions on this issue as at least 63 per cent of people from all levels supported a nationalized approach to long term care facilities. And while a majority of Canadians across age groups and genders did also express that they were in favour of this policy, approval was highest with women over the age of 34 (72 per cent).

The recent push for national standards has been led by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The union represents 65,000 long-term care nurses, dietary, cleaning and administrative staff.

Last week the union’s national president sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and other federal leaders. The letter asks for long-term care to be regulated under the Canada Health Act with the implementation of national care standards. It also advocates for funding to be set aside for provinces and territories to be administered through the Canada Health Transfer. The National Union of Public and General Employees also sent federal leaders a letter last month also asking government to extend the Canada Health Act to include the facilities.

CBC News reports that CUPE will be asking its members working in care homes to contact their local MP through a letter-writing campaign.

Long-term care currently falls under provincial jurisdiction. Justin Trudeau has previously stated that extending law to have it fall under the Canada Health Act will be a consideration after a post-pandemic review takes place.