The Harper Conservatives have quietly implemented two measures that will destroy universal healthcare if we allow the Harper Conservatives to control Parliament again.
First, buried in the 2014 federal budget is a move that replaces the equalization portion of the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) with a per capita transfer. The result - it will be increasingly difficult for provinces with isolated or older populations, such as BC, to deliver universal healthcare. This one change will create a $16.5 billion funding gap for the have-not provinces over the next 5 years. The only province to benefit from the change is Alberta, with its growing, younger population.
Second, Harper's administration deliberately failed to renew the Health Accord between the federal government and the provinces. The Health Accord outlined the funding agreement reached between the provinces and the federal governments. It expired with no effort at the federal level for renegotiation. The new federal program pushes more healthcare costs onto the provinces, linking funding to economic growth.
Now, beginning in 2017, the 6% annual increase for the health transfer will be replaced with a formula that links the health transfer to economic growth, to a minimum of 3%. The result - during economic downturns, when Canadians need the most access to healthcare, the federal transfer will be reduced. If the growth in health transfers falls to the minimum 3%, the federal government would be removing $36 billion in national support for healthcare. This is a deathblow to quality care.
All this paves the way to for-profit healthcare, something Harper set out to achieve since his days with the National Citizens Coalition, an organization first founded to fight the national healthcare system.
In Harper’s campaign for the leadership of the Alliance Party, his views are clear: “Harper also believes that our healthcare will continue to deteriorate unless Ottawa overhauls the Canada Health Act to allow the provinces to experiment with market reforms and private healthcare delivery options. He is prepared to take tough positions including experimenting with private delivery in the public system.”
Harper stated, “Given such a challenge, what we clearly need is experimentation - with market reforms and private delivery options within the public system. And it is only logical that, in a federal state where the provinces operate the public healthcare systems and regulate private services, that experimentation should occur at the provincial level.”
Ironically, Harper recommends a free market system similar to the older US approach, where thousands needlessly died from lack of affordable healthcare. Moving away from a single-payer system and introducing more private healthcare is not a solution and would likely exacerbate wait times in the public system by drawing healthcare resources away from it.
Unfortunately, we are at risk of moving toward privately funded healthcare – wanted it or not. The Supreme Court of British Columbia will hear a constitutional challenge of B.C.’s ban on private healthcare this November. The challenge says for-profit healthcare will make hospital wait-lists shorter, but international evidence shows that increasing for-profit care has no impact on public wait times.
Harper Conservatives are good at ignoring the evidence. But it's clear that rates of devastating diseases, including cancer and dementia, are increasing. We are heading for a healthcare crisis.
Allowing for-profit healthcare jeopardizes our entire health system. Based on the rules for ‘national treatment,’ if Canada allows increasing numbers of for-profit facilities, we run the risk of losing our entire universal single-payer system in a NAFTA challenge.
We can't wait - Canada needs to develop a well-coordinated strategy across all levels of government to ensure universal access to quality healthcare for all Canadians. Fortunately, the Green Party has a strong healthcare policy platform to improve access and ensure all Canadians have a family doctor. The Greens fully support the Canada Health Act and all of its principles. Innovative and practical policies must be implemented.
Elizabeth May has championed the creation of a national strategy for elder care, called on the House to develop and promote a national pharmacare plan, including a federal bulk purchasing agency to reduce the costs for provincial healthcare. She understands the impact of a for-profit system where the wealthy can go to the front of the line and access advanced drugs and treatments, while people with the greatest needs can't find family doctors.
We also need adequate funding to ensure that the support staffs of cleaners are not compromised. The spread of infection within hospitals has worsened and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are increasingly common because janitorial staff has been privatized. The lower wages and cut backs result in higher staff turnover in a workforce with lower skills. The costs are both human and financial.
These are only some of the issues the Green Party would address to strengthen our healthcare system in a fiscally responsible manner. Please see Vision Green for a broader look at all the evidenced based improvements that can be made to the delivery of our healthcare.