Pension Fund Capitalism and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Case of Revera

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2191 ... September 12, 2020

Pension Fund Capitalism and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Case of Revera

Kevin Skerrett

Of the many crises provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic across Canada, the dire situation in long-term care facilities and retirement housing may be the most widely and urgently recognized. Even Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose own party engineered the significant shift to more privatized and ‘marketized’ long-term care (LTC) provision in the 1990s, recently declared the system to be “absolutely broken.”

A scathing report prepared by Canadian military specialists sent by the Ontario government to provide emergency staff support to five (eventually six) of the province’s worst-hit homes described the conditions found as “gruesome.” A subsequent report from the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHI) found that Canada has had the highest proportion of total COVID-19 related deaths in LTC facilities (81%) among the 17 OECD countries studied. Public policies promoting the partial commodification, deregulation, and underfunding of seniors’ care in the LTC system by neoliberal governments in Ontario and across the country have now been exposed as nothing short of... catastrophic.

While less discussed, the media has also reported on the peculiar role being played within this “broken” system by one of Canada’s largest pension funds. The Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP) is a federal crown corporation established in 1999 to invest the pension funds of federal public service workers, along with most of military personnel and RCMP employees. Since its acquisition in 2006, PSP has owned and operated the second-largest for-profit LTC company in the country under the name ‘Revera’. PSP’s ownership of Revera is not in the familiar passive form of a pension fund buying a small packet of equity shares in the company and collecting dividends. Rather, as part of a recent wave of ‘private equity’ corporations getting more directly involved in for-profit healthcare, PSP bought an existing chain of care homes in 2006 and consolidated it under a new management structure that it fully controls. As its 100% owner, PSP is Revera.

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