The Ontario Government Seeks to Regulate Retirement Homes with a Noteworthy Bill – CARP Urges Consumer Protection

A new bill working its way through the Ontario Legislature promises to regulate retirement homes across the province. With more than 40,000 retirement home spaces in Ontario and a population of seniors expected to double to nearly 4.1 million within 25 years, according to the Ontario Seniors Secretariat the need for regulation is long overdue. Vice President of CARP Advocacy, Susan Eng acknowledged, “the proposed changes recognize the growing need for more care services and accommodation outside institutional settings and ensures that the safety and quality of services in retirement homes meet the standards we would want for ourselves and our loved ones.”

According to the Seniors’ Secretariat, Bill 21, Retirement Homes Act 2010 aims to “create a regulatory authority with the power to license homes and conduct inspections, investigations and enforcement, including issuing financial penalties or revoking licenses if necessary”. It will also “establish mandatory care and safety standards and establish residents’ rights that include the right to know the true cost of care and accommodation and the right to live in an environment that promotes zero tolerance of abuse or neglect.”

To view a copy of the Ontario Senior’s Secretariat presentation to the Ontario Retirement Communities Association on Bill 21, please Click here.

Bill 21 has been progressing through the legislative process with blistering speed. In less than a month, it has gone through First and Second Reading and is currently before the Standing Committee on Social Policy, where most stakeholder concerns and issues are raised. While CARP commends the Government for its efforts to ensure that Ontario’s retirement homes are safe, secure and provide quality care, the haste with which the Bill is moving through the legislature may be jeopardizing its credibility and the strength of its regulatory framework. To view a transcripts of CARP’s Committee presentation, please click here.

On May 10, CARP presented a cautionary submission to the Standing Committee concerning the need for real accountability and regulation to ensure that the Bill deliver on its promises. The principal issues raised concerned the governance and accountability of the Act.

For one, the Bill proposes the establishment of an Authority governed by a board of directors charged with administering the regulations. As it stands currently, there is no assurance that the composition of the board will not favour the retirement home industry. CARP has strongly insisted that any Authority charged with regulating a growing and potentially vulnerable segment of our population should work unequivocally in the interest of retirement home residents.

Likewise, the Bill establishes a Residents’ Bill of Rights, but its dependence on a complaint driven process for reporting abuses puts too heavy an onus on residents to police the actions and abuses of retirement homes. CARP insisted to the Standing Committee that proper enforcement of the new regulations needs independent oversight that will monitor the actions retirement homes across the province in a publicly accountable manner.

CARP also raised the issue of licensing. As it currently stands, the Bill stipulates that all retirement homes will receive a license without being required first to pass a basic inspection or meet minimum standards and are subject only to after-the-fact revocation. If the point of the Bill is to ensure retirement home residents can live in a safe environment, CARP urged that licensing must be earned and maintained by meeting high standards of care.