Summer 2012 Newsletter — Focus on Health

On Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 in Householders

Householder 3: HealthThe role of governments in Canada’s health care system: is enough being done?

“It is equally common sense for our health care system to place greater emphasis on preventing disease and promoting healthy lifestyles. This is the best way to sustain our health care system over the longer term. Keeping people well, rather than treating them when they are sick, is common sense.”

- Roy Romanow, Future of Health Care in Canada, 2002

Governments keep telling Canadians how they are going to “fix” the health care system. Yet many problems are actually getting worse, including longer wait-lists for diagnosis and surgery, over-crowded emergency rooms, and increasing shortages of family doctors.

The state of our health is getting worse, too. One in five Canadian children now have asthma. Almost half of us face cancer at some time in our lives. There is an epidemic of obesity in adults and children, and along with this comes known increased risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, and other serious health risks. Close to one million Canadians have been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Skyrocketing costs for pharmaceutical drugs have now eclipsed all other health care expenditures. (Drugs are, in fact, the fastest rising component in health care costs.)

Throwing more money to the provinces, as has been done by the last two governments, is not achieving concrete results. The 2004 First Ministers Health Accord ( committed $41 billion to health care system improvements, including $5.5 billion over 10 years to reduce wait times. Benchmarks were established in December 2005 in five key health care areas that have been prone to longer waiting times. So far, progress is mixed, even though reducing wait times was one of only five promises made by Stephen Harper in the 2006 campaign. This Health Accord expires in 2014.

As pressure built on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to set out the plan for federal-provincial negotiation of a renewed Health Accord, the Conservatives made a bold move. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty met with the provincial ministers in December 2011 and presented a “take it or leave it” offer.

The federal government has set out a financial formula until 2024. The current 6% per year increase will continue from $30 billion in 2013-14 growing to $38 billion by 2018-19. At that point, the funding formula for federal transfers to the provinces would shift to being tied to the rate of economic growth in each province. (The actual rate is called “nominal GDP,” a measure of GDP plus inflation.) BC Finance Minister Kevin Falcon was pleased with the certainty, while most provincial ministers were angry with the unilateral nature of the federal “offer.”

What I find most troubling is that the federal offer is also “no strings attached.” In other words, the federal government is washing its hands of insisting on national health care standards. Former Saskatchewan Premier and head of the 2002 Royal Commission on Health Care, Roy Romanow, expressed his concern that the federal “no strings attached” approach was “potentially dangerous for the future of Medicare in Canada.” (“Provinces get more autonomy to drive health care reform,” Globe and Mail, December 21, 2011.)

Where all players in health care expected that as the 2014 Health Accord reached its expiration date, there would be a transparent process to negotiate standards and goals in health care, the federal government has walked away from the process, leaving its money on the table.

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.



In This Issue…

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  • S. McCumsey

    I am very concerned about the impact GMO’s are going to have for public health not to mention those for the environment. We need our government to stop putting big business ahead of the wishes of the public, health and environment. I think Health Canada is a farce. Right now they are in the courts because they refuse to review pesticides like they are required to do by law. Most people don’t even know what GMO’s are. Right now a Canadian scientist is touring across the country to try to bring awareness to this issue. People have been lied to for a long time.

  • Bob Mackenzie

    Why is Harper taking 36 billion from health care but getting involved the US in going to war over a civil matter in the Ukraine.

    • MM-S

      Hi Bob Mackenzie, the answer to your question is this — while people are distracted by Harper’s sword rattling he can slip, slither and slide his real agenda into place.

      • Bob Mackenzie

        with his majority then I suppose he will get what he wants. With the left so badly fractured and fragmented he can do what ever he wants with a minority of the voting public’s good graces.

    • Jim_Poushinsky

      Harper’s purpose is not war with Russia. He wants an economic boycott that will stop Russia’s oil and gas shipments to Europe, and make Europe dependent on Canada’s Tar Sands Oil that they have been refusing to consider. The “emergency” need to supply Europe will over-ride all other concerns by environmental groups and First Nations and expedite pipeline construction. Obama represents the US fracking oil and gas industries which also want a Russian boycott to create a market in Europe. Political policy is all about the oil and gas monopoly game the ultra-rich are playing, follow the money!

      • Bob Mackenzie

        If that is what he is going to use 36 billion dollars worth of health care money for then he is a fool. Europe will not cut their nose off to spite their face.

  • Linda Fraser

    I like the idea of preventing disease in the first place rather than trying to treat it after it happens. Cleaning up the environment goes a long way toward a healthier population… and not just for humans! Thank you Elizabeth.

  • Jim_Poushinsky

    My Ontario family doctor just told us she will no longer be able to see seniors for yearly check-ups, as such visits will no longer be covered by government. Her receptionist also informed us she will no longer be calling to remind us before appointments. Prevention is no longer considered medical practice.

    • Charlotte Holland Amodeo

      Sad :(

  • Michaelle Fikowski

    I do not trust the Harper government nor the provincial government of Alberta. Healthcare is at the bottom of the PC agenda no matter what they say. We aren’t stupid. Please vote anything but PC in any election!

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