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With many COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, Tory MP asks whether economy can reopen


OTTAWA — British Columbia Conservative MP Marc Dalton has deleted a tweet asking whether it is time to start reopening businesses if most of the deaths from COVID-19 in this country are of older people in long-term care homes.

Dalton, who represents the riding of Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge near Vancouver, posted the tweet Monday morning. It included a link to a story in the Globe and Mail reporting signs Canada is starting to flatten the curve in the COVID-19 pandemic, with the notable exception of outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec.

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

The post was deleted about two hours later, shortly after The Canadian Press began inquiring about it.

A statement from Dalton issued by his office via email did not address why the tweet was deleted.

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

"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."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's spokesperson responded to a request for comment with the same statement from Dalton.

"We have nothing further to add," said Denise Siele.

Scott Duvall, the federal NDP's critic for seniors issues, was horrified by Dalton's suggestion that if it is just older people dying the rest of Canada should be able to return to normal.

"I just can't believe something like that can be said," said Duvall. "It's unacceptable. It is heartless."

Green Leader Elizabeth May was almost speechless when she heard about the comment.

"What? What? What," she asked repeatedly before calling it "horrific and immoral."

Governments have adopted strict physical-distancing measures to try to contain the spread of the virus, including banning gatherings of more than a handful of people and closing many workplaces. Millions are out of work but so far, hospitals have not been overwhelmed.

But Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said Monday that outbreaks in long-term care homes are the most crucial COVID-19 problem coming out of the last two weeks of the pandemic in Canada, and urged all Canadians to continue to stay home to keep older people, who are most at risk, from dying.

More than 90 per cent of the Canadians who have died are over the age of 60, according to statistics Tam issued last week. On Monday she said half of the 734 deaths in Canada from COVID-19 had occurred in long-term care homes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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