The judge leading the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry is now also going to be chair for the province’s independent commission into long term care.
Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco announced his latest role with a statement posted to the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry website today.
“I have agreed to chair a provincial commission of inquiry into the effects of COVId-19 on long-term care facilities,” stated Marrocco. “I am pleased to be able to contribute in some small way to the issues presented by the pandemic.”
The Collingwood Judicial Inquiry was called by town council in February 2018 to study the 50 per cent share sale of the town’s electrical distribution company (COLLUS) to Powerstream in 2012 and also to scrutinize the decisions made to spend the sale proceeds on two recreation facilities (Centennial Aquatic Centre and Central Park Arena).
Public hearings took place through 2019 and the results of the inquiry are pending while Marrocco and the inquiry team works on his findings and recommendations report.
“While the pandemic has had an impact on the inquiry’s work, I will release my report prior to Oct. 31,” stated Marrocco. “I remain focused on delivering my report and recommendations to the Town of Collingwood.”
The Ontario independent commission is supposed to begin in September, according to a provincial announcement made in May. The commission will review the province’s long-term care system, particularly the fatal impacts and widespread outbreaks of COVID-19.
According to an announcement made today by Premier Doug Ford, the commissioners are supposed to deliver their final report by April 2021. The commission, like an inquiry, will have the power to conduct an investigation, compel people to give or produce evidence, issue summons, and hold public meetings.
Marrocco will be on a three-member panel including Dr. Jack Kitts and Angela Coke.
Kitts is the retired president and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital and Coke is a former deputy minister. Marrocco was lead counsel for the province at the Walkerton inquiry prior to being appointed commissioner of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry.
According to Public Health Ontario, 1,793 long-term care residents died with COVID-19, which is 65 per cent of all the coronavirus-related deaths reported in Ontario. Eight long-term care health workers also died. To date, there have been 5,885 cases of COVID confirmed in long-term care residents and 2,529 cases confirmed in health care workers employed at long-term care homes. There have been 387 outbreaks of COVID-19 at long-term care homes in Ontario so far.
According to the Ontario government, 78,000 people live in 626 long-term care homes across the province and there are another 38,000 people on the waitlist for a long-term care bed.
The Ontario government has previously ordered an independent commission, including one in 2003 to investigate the introduction and spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom (SARS). That commission included interviews with 600 people and six days of public hearings.
The mandate of the long-term care COVID-19 commission includes an investigation and report on the state of the long-term care home system pre-pandemic and how that contributed to the COVID-19 virus spread within long-term care homes.
The commission is also charged with investigating the adequacy of measures taken to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19.
The commission report, also like a public inquiry, cannot make any conclusions or recommendations about the civil or criminal responsibility of any person or organization.