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Fedeli named in integrity complaint against MPPs over Bill 218

Posted: November 19, 2020

(November 18, 2020)

By: Michael Lee, North Bay Nugget (Print Edition)

The Ontario Health Coalition has filed a complaint with the Office of the Integrity Commissioner to investigate certain Progressive Conservative MPPs for any conflicts of interest related to donations from the long-term care industry and the recent passage of a bill critics it says would protect those operators from COVID-19 related liabilities.

The complaint, released to The Nugget Monday by the coalition, alleges breaches of the Members’Integrity Act and Legislative Assembly Act over accusations the PC Party and some of its MPPs received political donations from 2007 to 2018 from the “long-term care lobby” and long-term care operators.

The members named in the complaint include Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli and Premier Doug Ford, as well as MPPs Ted Arnott, Doug Downey, Christine Elliott, Mike Harris, Sylvia Jones, Lisa McLeod, Caroline Mulroney, Rod Phillips, Greg Rickford and Lisa Thompson.

The coalition, whose stated goal is to protect public health-care, asked those MPPs with conflicts to recuse themselves from voting on Bill 218, Supporting Ontario’s Recovery and Municipal Elections Act.

The bill, the coalition alleges, would protect long-term care operators and others from legal liability for negligence related to their behaviour during the pandemic. The bill received third reading, or final approval, Monday afternoon.

Speaking during a virtual media conference earlier that morning, Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said the bill in no way serves the public’s interest and should be amended to remove long-term care and retirement homes from the protection.

“It creates even more hardship for the families who have already suffered so horribly as a result of the negligence and the inadequate response of long-term care and retirement homes during the pandemic,” she said.

Mehra added that more than 2,000 people have lost loved ones in long-term care homes alone and for those families, “at every step of the way, trying to access accountability and justice has been impossible.”

An explanatory note to Bill 218 says it would prevent action against any person as a direct or indirect result of someone being, or potentially being, infected with or exposed to COVID-19 on or after March 17, either as a direct or indirect result of an act or omission of the person.

This would apply if the person “acted or made a good-faith effort to act in accordance with” applicable public health guidance, or federal, provincial or municipal law, related to COVID-19.

The bill says the act or omission also must not constitute “gross negligence.”

The coalition alleges the bill is being advanced because of the close ties among the premier, his key cabinet ministers and the longterm care industry, which include the receipt of political donations.

A spokesperson for Fedeli called the complaint’s attempt to link him as having “ties” to long-term care operators “misleading and tenuous at best.”

She notes that the complaint lists two people, who were PC staffers when Fedeli was appointed interim party leader, as that link, both of whom went on to work in the longterm care sector.

The spokesperson also referenced a statement on the Office of the Integrity Commissioner’s website, which says the Members’Integrity Act does not provide for complaints to be received from the public.

The media conference also included statements from two people whose mothers died from COVID-19 after being exposed to the coronavirus while in long-term care.

Kara Ferreira said her mother moved into a long-term care facility owned by Holland Christian Homes, which previously required the intervention of the Canadian Armed Forces.

A story last month from The Pointer says the home is located in Brampton and Ferreira is part of a $20-million suit against the home’s owner.

Ferreira said during the media conference after her mother’s death, the family learned her roommate had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Who would ever place a well patient in the same room as a COVID-19 positive patient? To us, this was a death sentence,” she said.

“If this bill is passed, then those responsible will not be held accountable.

If this bill is passed, then you are allowing for someone else’s grandmother, grandfather, mother or father to die this way, too.”

Irene Bobyk, whose mother was a resident at Lundy Manor in Niagara Falls, also spoke.

Bobyk is the representative plaintiff in a class-action suit against the home’s owner, Oxford Living, and said Bill 218 “seeks to protect the very for-profit corporations that do not protect our loved ones in their care,” adding it serves to “protect the guilty and punish the innocent.”

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