Prime Minister announces long-term care funding and talks guns and addiction

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited with seniors at St. Anne’s Senior Citizen’s Village in Saskatoon Wednesday, while announcing more than $32-million to support better health care for seniors in long-term care. Justin Trudeau says the pandemic exposed gaps in the health care system, particularly for those in long-term care homes. A couple of things the investment will support are safer dining practices, increased cleaning and housekeeping, and enhanced screening protocols for staff.

The federal and provincial governments have signed a bilateral agreement to improve care for residents in Saskatchewan long-term care homes through the Safe Long-Term Care Fund. Trudeau says the federal government will continue to work with the provinces and territories to ensure everyone can be treated with dignity and respect as they age.

Saskatchewan’s Seniors Minister, Everett Hindley, says the 32 million dollars announced today for the province will offset some costs already incurred

“So whether it’s the cohorting of staff in facilities because of measures, infection prevention and control so that $32 million is going to be used in those sorts of areas so not anything really new in terms of where that money is going to be going.”

Hindley says the premiers are looking for additional, stable, long term funding from the Canada Health Transfer. He suggests the number agreed upon is an additional 28 billion dollars in new money on an annual basis which he says is needed to make a meaningful impact. Hindley expects that the topic will be part of the conversation later this week when western premiers meet in Regina.

The Prime Minister also answered questions about other topics including mental health and addictions. The overdose death rate has more than doubled in Saskatchewan in the past couple of years. A safe injection site with wrap-around supports to guide people towards seeking help operates in Saskatoon by donation, and didn’t receive any funding from the provincial government in the last budget.

Trudeau noted that health is a provincial responsibility, but Ottawa is willing to work with interested provinces.

“We are working actively with a number of provinces who are looking at innovative solutions that will address these issues and support, and we are very hopeful that more provinces will join in those discussions, but that is an issue for the provinces to make determinations on.”

The Prime Minister says the federal government is following the science on things like safe supply programs, and treating addictions as a health issue and not a criminal issue, and will be there for all partners as they tackle this issue.  Saskatchewan’s Mental Health and Addictions Minister, Everett Hindley, said  consultations are taking place, and the province has the Pillars for Life program, which is a suicide prevention plan. He adds that he and other MLAs will be traveling the province this spring and summer to hear from residents about what their concerns are.

In the wake of the Tuesday’s Texas elementary school massacre where 19 children and two adults were shot and killed, the Prime Minister was asked about banning handguns, considering there are exponentially more homicides where handguns are used, compared to military style assault weapons which were recently made illegal. Specifically, Trudeau was asked why banning handguns is left to municipalities instead of being a federal responsibility. He answered, “Actually we move forward with a commitment to work with provinces and municipalities that wanted to flat out ban handguns, to allow them to do that. We have been working with them and some of their concerns over the past while.” He also added that the federal government will be taking new steps on gun control in the coming weeks.


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