In a press release from March 1, 2023, the federal government announced: “In the coming months, the Government of Canada will move forward with consultations and engagement with stakeholders and Canadians on the Safe LTC Act.”
This is the first indication that a federal Safe Long-Term Care Act is advancing. The federal Liberal Party first pledged to introduce the Act in their September 2021 election platform.
However, until this announcement, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos had not publicly made any commitment to bring about the Act.
In the press release, the Government cites the Jan. 31, 2023 release of two independent Long-Term Care standards from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group) and the Health Standards Organization (HSO), “which provide guidance for delivering services that are safe, reliable and – most importantly – centred on residents’ needs.” CSA Group and HSO received close to $850,000 in federal funding to produce these standards, and over 20,000 long-term care home residents, workers, leaders and others participated in consultations. Any proposed federal legislation will be based on the work that went into developing these standards.
It remains to be seen how the legislation will be framed, especially considering that any federal legislation governing Long-Term Care standards would likely encroach upon provincial jurisdiction over healthcare. At this point, it is too early to speculate how the federal Government will construct this statute so to avoid constitutional scrutiny.
Regardless, a constitutional challenge from one or more provinces may be unavoidable. A few hours after the CSA Group/HSO standards were released, Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care Paul Calendra stated, “I have no interest in watering down Ontario’s very high standards, and I am hopeful that the federal standards will meet the high standards of Ontario.” Last year, Ontario proclaimed a new Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021, which came into force on April 11, 2022. Ontario is now developing “Stage 2” regulations under this legislation.
BLG’s Senior Living & Housing group will continue to monitor the progress of the Safe Long-Term Care Act. If you have any questions or inquiries as to how the expert team at BLG can support your organization through these anticipated changes, please reach out to your BLG lawyer, or any of the key contacts listed below.