Sunday, March 22, 2015

he labour movement first started talking to Canadians about publicly funded, universal health care before most of them could imagine such a thing was possible. Today, it is a part of our country’s identity as are the values at its heart – fairness, equality and solidarity. The idea that access to health care must always be based on need, not wealth or privilege is something we all share as Canadians.

Public health care is also smart economics. Our system costs less and delivers more than the market-driven alternative in the United States (that is only now being phased out in favour of a system more like ours, although they still have a long way to go). We have better outcomes on key indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy. Health care costs remain a major cause of personal bankruptcy in the US, but not in Canada, where everyone is covered.

It was a tremendous struggle to convince governments to adopt our public health care system. The market-driven alternative offers the opportunity for great profit every bit as much as it does misery and suffering for those who cannot afford to participate. Some people still only see the money and continue to work for ways to squeeze it out of care and into profit. 
Which is why public health care must be protected every bit as much as is must keep up with the times.

Canada’s population is aging rapidly, which means our health care needs are growing. But our health care needs are changing at the same time. We need access to a wider range of services, far beyond doctors and hospitals. 

Over nearly nine years in power, the Conservative government in Ottawa has done nothing to address these challenges. In fact, they have made things worse. They refuse to enforce the Canada Health Act. They eliminated the Health Council of Canada. They refuse to provide leadership, let alone work with the provinces and territories to improve health care to the point where they won’t sign a new Health Accord. In fact, they are walking away from the health care table and taking $36 billion of federal health care funding away with them. This means families will have less access to family doctors and specialists; longer waits in emergency rooms, for hospital beds and diagnostic tests; and less access to prescription drugs, home care and long-term care for seniors.

We can do better than this. In fact, there is already a solution that can work, for everyone.

Slashing $36 billion from Canada’s health care system is a deliberate step away from Canadian values toward the market-driven alternative of for-profit health care that leaves too many people out in the cold. 

We want a federal government that will:

  • reverse the decision to walk away from the federal-provincial table and cut $36 billion in funding
  • show leadership to reduce wait times by recruiting, training and retaining more doctors, nurses and health science professionals
  • enforce the Canada Health Act and stand up to the push for privatized and for-profit health clinics
  • work with the provinces and territories on a new 10-year Health Accord that includes:
    stable, predictable and long-term federal funding that grows 6% each year
    a national, universal program that provides prescription drug coverage
    expanding accessibility and improving the quality of home care, long-term facility-based care and mental health services
    improving access to health services for Aboriginal peoples while addressing the social determinants of health in Aboriginal communities.