Ontario health and long-term care ministers to appear before commission investigating COVID-19 crisis
Ontario Premier Doug Ford leads Health Minister Chritine Elliott and Minister of Long Term Care Dr. Merilee Fullerton to the daily briefing at Queen's Park in Toronto on Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TORONTO -- Two senior ministers within Ontario's Progressive Conservative government will appear before the COVID-19 commission into long-term care, CTV News Toronto has learned, to discuss the province's response during the pandemic.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott is expected to address the commission in the coming weeks, along with Merrilee Fullerton, the minister responsible for long-term care, according to their spokespeople.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Fullerton confirmed that her office is working with the commission to finalize a date for the hearing after receiving a request to attend.
"I have said repeatedly that I will make myself available to meet with the commission," Fullerton said in a statement. "I look forward to answering questions of the commissioners and receiving their final report.”
Elliott also confirmed that she is working with the commission to confirm a date and time "in the near future" to address the commission.
The invitations come weeks after Fullerton denied a request by the commission to extend its reporting deadline which, the commissioners said, would have allowed them to properly examine the second wave's impact on the long-term care sector.
In a December letter to Fullerton, Commission Chair Frank Marrocco also expressed concern over the "significant delays in obtaining government information central to the commission's investigation" and suggested submitting a final report in December 2021.
Fullerton, however, argued that the commission's "timely and focused advice" was urgently needed due to the current health care crisis and insisted the April 30 deadline should remain.
The commission has held roughly 100 meetings with government bureaucrats, industry stakeholders, and experts leading to nearly 6,000 pages of transcripts and two interim reports.
While it's unclear when the ministers will appear in front of the commission, the request could signal the final stages of the report that will deal with systemic issues within the long-term care system that led to the current crisis.
Premier Doug Ford, who has promised to testify if called, has not been requested to appear according to the Premier's Office.