Politics

Tory MP notes 'most' pandemic deaths are in care homes, asks if it's time to reopen economy

A Conservative MP is being urged to apologize after posting and then removing a tweet asking if it's time to re-start the economy, given that COVID-19 deaths have been mostly confined to seniors' care homes where life expectancy is low.

Seniors Minister Deb Schulte says Marc Dalton owes public apology for 'careless' tweet

British Columbia Conservative MP Marc Dalton, shown in this undated handout photo from the party's public website, has deleted a tweet which questioned if it is time to start reopening businesses if most of the deaths from COVID-19 in this country are older people in long term care homes. (Conservative Party of Canada handout via Canadian Press)

A Conservative MP is being urged to apologize after posting and then removing a tweet asking if it's time to re-start the economy, given that COVID-19 deaths have been mostly confined to seniors' care homes where life expectancy is low.

The posting on Marc Dalton's Twitter feed went up at 11:30 am today and came down shortly afterwards — but not before it had been seen by CBC News.

"Most deaths are in care homes where average life expectancy is 2 yrs & 65% usually pass in the 1st yr. Time to start moving Canada back to work?" the tweet said.

The tweet then went on to cite a media report about how Canada has managed so far to protect its health care system from being swamped by COVID-19 cases — which is what happened in Italy and New York State.

Minister of Seniors Deb Schulte has joined the NDP in calling for the Conservative MP to issue a public apology for his comments. 

"Our government is working together to keep everyone safe and save lives during this public health crisis," Schulte told CBC News in an email. "Posts like this are not helpful. Mr. Dalton owes an apology to everyone whose lives he so carelessly dismissed."

The Tweet posted to Conservative MP Marc Dalton's Twitter account. (twitter/@MarcDalton)

Dalton's office sent an email to CBC News with a statement that did not mention the tweet specifically. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the hundreds of Canadians who have lost loved ones because of COVID-19. I personally have an uncle in a care home who I love dearly who has contracted coronavirus," Dalton said in the statement. 

"Conservatives are focused on how best to get Canada through this crisis and ensuring the health and safety of all Canadians. The Prime Minister has said that we need to prepare for a second and, perhaps, a third wave.  Canadians want to know how the government is preparing to get ahead of those waves and get our economy back on track."

Questions emailed to Dalton about the tweet and why it was removed went unanswered.

Kelsie Chiasson, acting director of communications for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, said the Conservative Party had nothing more to add to Dalton's statement.

It's not clear if Dalton posted the tweet himself or if it was done by a member of his staff. The Canadian Press reported earlier Monday that the tweet was taken down only after the news service inquired about it.

"I think it's actually disgusting. It's ruthless, it's heartless and it's a disrespectful comment," said NDP MP Scott Duvall, the party's critic for seniors policy.  "I'm not sure if he would be saying that if his parents were in the same situation."

Duvall said he wants Dalton to issue a public apology for the comments.

"I just don't know where his mind was to say something as idiotic as that," he said. 

COVID-19 related long-term care deaths

Dalton's tweet came the morning that Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, told Canadians that the spread of the virus in nursing and retirement homes has been behind half of the more than 700 deaths across the country.

Tam said that Canada's fatality rate is expected to rise, given the outbreaks in long-term care homes across the country. 

Her comments followed a grim weekend discovery in a private long-term care home in Dorval, Que., where police are investigating the deaths of 31 people since March 13. Five of the deaths have been definitively linked to COVID-19.

Quebec Premier François Legault has alleged there may have been "gross negligence" at Résidence Herron. But Quebec is not alone in its struggle to contain cases in seniors' and long-term care homes, Tam said.

"Almost all jurisdictions are essentially trying to deal with the outbreaks at long-term care facilities," she said. "That's really across the board." 

Twenty-nine residents in a 65-bed nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., have died during the pandemic. Eighteen deaths at North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Care Centre have been attributed to COVID-19. Other facilities from coast to coast have had outbreaks and in many cases numerous care workers have been sickened as well.

With files from the Canadian Press

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