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Federal government sends $2B in health transfers, other funding to provinces

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OTTAWA — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the provinces, territories and municipalities have now received more than $2.85 billion promised months ago for health care, transit systems and classroom ventilation.

Most of it is a $2-billion health transfer top-up the federal government pledged for provincial and territorial governments in March mainly to help relieve surgical backlogs.

Freeland says the funds can now be transferred because the budget bill that contained them passed June 23.

But the transfer also comes days after premiers were heavily critical of the federal Liberals for not shouldering enough of the weight of health-care costs.

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Thursday’s transfer fulfils a Liberal election promise to give provinces and territories another $100 million to improve air quality in classrooms.

It also includes the $750-million pledged in February for municipal governments to manage plunging public transit revenues as a result of the pandemic.

The transit funding requires provinces and territories to provide matching dollars, and is also contingent on them building more homes to address rising housing costs.

The one-time top-up to health funding was promised by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos March 25, and he and Freeland co-sponsored a bill to enable that spending the same day.

But that bill was never debated and instead the Liberals included the funding in their budget bill, which was introduced a month later.

Duclos said in March the money was to help provinces “expedite” surgeries. Wait lists for most surgical procedures ballooned during COVID-19, as hospitals delayed non-urgent surgeries because of an influx of COVID-19 patients.

Duclos said earlier this week letters were being signed with each province to finalize the payments as the premiers met in British Columbia.

The premiers have said these one-time top-ups are not enough to repair the damage the pandemic has caused to their health-care systems, and they want the federal government to increase its share of health funding on a permanent basis.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2022.

 

Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

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Trudeau says China tried to meddle in Canada elections – Al Jazeera English

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Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau said election results were not affected and it was ‘improbable’ Beijing preferred any one party over another.

China tried to meddle in the last two Canadian elections but the results were not affected and it was “improbable” Beijing preferred any one party over another, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told an official probe.

In sworn testimony on Wednesday before a commission conducting a public inquiry into alleged foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections, Trudeau answered questions about intelligence briefings he had received and asserted the elections were “free and fair”.

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The prime minister set up the commission last year under pressure from opposition legislators unhappy about media reports on China’s possible role in the elections. China has consistently denied that it interfered in Canada’s internal affairs, calling the allegations “groundless”.

Erin O’Toole, who led the main opposition Conservative party during the 2021 campaign, has estimated Chinese interference cost his party up to nine seats but added it had not changed the course of the election. Trudeau’s Liberal Party won both the elections.

“Nothing we have seen and heard despite, yes, attempts by foreign states to interfere, those elections held in their integrity. They were decided by Canadians,” Trudeau said.

Asked about an intelligence report about Chinese officials in Canada expressing a preference in 2021 for a Liberal minority government due to the perception that minority governments would be more limited in enacting anti-China policies, Trudeau said the report had not reached him.

“While individual [Chinese] officials may well have expressed a preference or another, the impression we got and consistently would get is that … it just would seem very improbable that the Chinese government itself would have a preference in the election,” Trudeau said.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in public hearings for an independent commission probing alleged foreign interference in Canadian elections
The prime minister set up the commission last year under pressure from opposition legislators unhappy about media reports on China’s possible role in the elections [Blair Gable/Reuters]

‘China has never had any interest in interfering in Canada’s affairs’

On Monday, Canada’s domestic spy agency told the commission that China “clandestinely and deceptively interfered” in both elections, the firmest evidence so far of suspected Chinese meddling in Canadian politics.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canada said Trudeau “slandered” China during the inquiry and that “China strongly deplores and resolutely opposes this”.

The spokesperson accused some politicians of attempting to target China in the public investigation.

“China has never had any interest in interfering in Canada’s internal affairs,” the spokesperson added.

The elections were conducted amid high tension between the countries over the 2018 arrest in Canada of a top executive of the Chinese company Huawei on a warrant issued by the United States.

Shortly afterwards, China detained two Canadians on spying charges. The men were released three years later, shortly after detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou flew home after reaching a deal with US prosecutors.

The commission will complete an initial report by May 3 and deliver its final report by the end of 2024.

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Justin Trudeau unveils Liberal plan for Canada housing crisis – CTV News

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The federal Liberals have unveiled their plan to solve the housing crisis, building on recent announcements with new tax incentives, more than a billion dollars for homelessness and a country-wide effort to build more housing on public lands.

The 28-page document, which comes days ahead of the federal budget, is the minority government’s latest effort to set the agenda on affordability as it loses significant ground to the Conservatives over cost-of-living issues.

Ottawa is also sending a message to provinces, territories and municipalities that they too will need to step up, dubbing the plan a “call to action.”

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“There’s no way that one level of government is going to solve the national housing crisis on their own,” said Housing Minister Sean Fraser in an interview.

“But if we work together … and create incentives to encourage each other to actually adopt policies that will help us get us to where we need to be, I know that we can accomplish this extraordinarily important task.”

The Liberals’ plan promises to tackle the spectrum of housing affordability challenges Canadians face, from the out-of-reach dream of homeownership to skyrocketing rental costs to homelessness.

While much of the plan was announced during the government’s pre-budget tour or even prior to that, several new measures are laid out in the document, including expanded tax incentives for homebuilding.

The federal government intends to increase the capital cost allowance rate for apartments from four to 10 per cent, which will increase how much builders can write off from their taxes.

It’s also extending the GST exemption on rentals to student residences built by public universities, colleges and school authorities.

The plan also earmarks more money to tackle homelessness as communities across the country struggle with encampments and limited shelter spaces.

The Liberal government is topping up the Reaching Homes program, a federal homelessness initiative, with an additional $1 billion over four years.

Another $250 million is allocated to help communities end encampments and transition people into housing. The federal government is asking provinces and territories to match that amount.

The Liberals are also pledging a “historic shift” in how the government uses public lands to build housing, which will involve making more land available for home construction and leasing land as opposed to selling it off.

And they want to restrict large corporate investors from purchasing existing single-family homes.

Other planks of the plan include training more skilled trades workers, easing foreign credential recognition and boosting productivity in the construction industry, measures that would presumably speed up the process of homebuilding.

The implementation of the Liberals’ housing plan will be in part contingent on co-operation from provinces and territories, some of which have already pushed back on the federal government over what they argue is jurisdictional overreach.

Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick were unhappy with Ottawa’s decision to make access to new infrastructure money contingent on a set of conditions, including legalizing fourplexes.

But Fraser pushed back on those critiques, arguing that Canadians just want their problems solved.

“When people come knock on the door of my constituency office and they have a problem, the last thing that they want to hear is that it’s not my responsibility to help them,” Fraser said.

“So from my point of view, it was important that we do what we can to embrace the challenge and demonstrate to Canadians that even where there may be technical jurisdictional obstacles, that wasn’t going to give us a reason to do anything less than the very best that we can.”

As the Liberals aggressively sell their housing plan, whether it lands with Canadians will depend on whether they still have faith that the incumbent government can solve their problems.

The federal Conservatives, who have have maintained a double-digit lead in public opinion polls since the summer, appear to have successfully convinced a large contingent of voters that the Liberals only make cost-of-living issues worse.

In the wake of the government’s recent housing announcements, federal Conservatives have dismissed them, arguing that pouring more money into “government bureaucracy” won’t solve the housing crisis.

“Trudeau’s been in power for eight years. And he’s been making announcements like that since 2015. What’re the results?” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said in a recent media interview.

Fraser acknowledged that Conservatives have succeeded at capturing Canadians’ attention on housing, but he said their solutions fall short of what’s needed.

“I think it’s dangerous when politicians seek to prey on the very real anxieties of people without doing anything to help them. It communicates to me that it’s motivated more by their appetite to seize political power than it is to actually help people who are struggling,” Fraser said.

Poilievre has argued that government should get out of the way and let developers build more homes.

His proposed housing plan centres heavily on requiring cities to increase home building by 15 per cent each year to receive their usual infrastructure spending, or see their funding withheld. Those who build more than the target would be eligible for “bonuses.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.

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Quadriplegic Quebec man chooses assisted dying after 4-day ER stay leaves horrific bedsore – CBC.ca

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On a Thursday in January, Normand Meunier arrived at the hospital in Saint-Jérôme, Que., with a respiratory virus. Weeks later, he would emerge with a severe bedsore that would eventually lead him to seek medical assistance in dying (MAID).

Meunier, 66, had been a truck driver before a spinal cord injury in 2022 left his arms and legs paralyzed.

Before being admitted to an intensive care bed for his third respiratory virus in three months this winter, Meunier was stuck on a stretcher in the emergency room for four days.

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His partner, Sylvie Brosseau, says without having access to a special mattress, Meunier developed a major pressure sore on his buttocks that eventually worsened to the point where bone and muscle were exposed and visible — making his recovery and prognosis bleak.

“Ninety-five hours on a stretcher, unacceptable,” Brosseau told Radio-Canada in an interview.

“Every time we go to the hospital, it’s my duty to tell them that Normand is quadriplegic and needs an alternating pressure mattress … I don’t understand how this can happen, because a mattress is the most basic thing.”

Brosseau says although she advocated for her partner, she was told the special bed had to be ordered.

A woman smiles while brushing a man's heair
Normand Meunier spoke with Radio-Canada the day before his death. He said he preferred putting an end to his physical and psychological suffering by opting for medical assistance in dying. (Ivanoh Demers/CBC)

‘I don’t want to be a burden’: Meunier

Without access to a mattress that shifts pressure points to prevent the formation of bedsores, a patient’s position must be changed frequently, says Jean-Pierre Beauchemin, a retired geriatrician and professor at Université Laval’s faculty of medicine.

“When you’re lying down, always in the same position, there’s hyper-pressure between the bone and the skin,” said Beauchemin.

“A pressure sore can open in less than 24 hours, and then take a very long time to close.”

The buttocks, heels, elbows and knees are particularly vulnerable.

A rotation schedule every two hours is generally necessary for a person confined to bed, according to a Quebec Health Ministry reference sheet.

Meunier had previously suffered other bedsores, notably on his heel, but nothing as disabling as the pressure sore he developed after his hospitalisation in Saint-Jérôme.

Speaking with Radio-Canada the day before his death, Meunier said he preferred putting an end to his physical and psychological suffering by opting for a medically assisted death.

He was told the sore — a gaping hole a few centimetres in diameter — would, at best, take several months to heal, according to the experts they consulted.

According to his partner, he underwent two debridements in one month — a treatment in which dead or infected tissue is scraped from wounds to help them get better.

“I don’t want to be a burden. At any rate, the medical opinions say I won’t be a burden for long; as the old folks say, it’s better to kick the can,” said Meunier.

He died at home on March 29.

A man sits in a sling that lowers him onto a mattress.
Normand Meunier had been paralyzed in his arms and legs since 2022. (Ivanoh Demers/CBC)

‘A case of disbelief,’ says advocate

“That whole story is a crying shame,” said Steven Laperrière, the director general of the Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ), which supports people with disabilities.

“It’s really a case of disbelief … What are we doing in order to help disabled persons or sick people to live in dignity prior to dying in dignity?”

He says the health-care institution was “negligent to say the least” and that getting a proper mattress is not like “trying to get a space shuttle into orbit.”

“It’s pretty basic … Nobody will convince me that within a few hours the proper mattress could not have been found,” said Laperrière.

“To me, that’s totally a lack of professionalism,” said Laperrière, who says Meunier “would probably still be alive today” if staff had “been really professional about it.”

A woman adjust a man's legs on a mattress.
Sylvie Brosseau, who had been caring for Meunier for the past two years, says her partner’s experience in the hospital was unacceptable. (Ivanoh Demers/CBC)

145 alternating pressure mattresses available, says health authority

In an email to CBC, management at the local health authority, CISSS des Laurentides, said it is taking Meunier’s case “very seriously.”

“An internal investigation is underway to shed light on the events,” read the statement.

The health authority confirmed it has 450 therapeutic mattresses, including 145 with alternating pressure, in its facilities (including hospitals and long-term care facilities) and that equipment is available if staff request it, according to Radio-Canada.

But adapted mattresses and beds are not found in ERs, says Steve Desjardins, director of nursing at the CISSS des Laurentides.

“An emergency room is not an appropriate place for this type of mattress, because beds aren’t used in an emergency room, they’re stretchers [and] there isn’t really a mattress adapted [to be put on] a stretcher,” said Desjardins.

“An emergency room is a riskier place for a fragile person. That’s why, if necessary, we’re going to work actively to give them access to a bed in an inpatient unit.”

‘Deeply troubling,’ says professor in health law

Trudo Lemmens says this case is “an illustration of problems in our health-care system.”

The Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Toronto says people who are already vulnerable are left feeling like more of a burden in the system.

“Then the system responds by saying: ‘well, you have access to medical assistance and dying,'” said Lemmens.

“Medical assistance in dying is more easily available and on a more regular basis than some of the most basic care.”

He says he is increasingly hearing stories of people who are struggling in the system and turn to MAID.

“It’s deeply troubling,” he says.

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