As Premiers prepare to meet in Victoria, civil society comes together to protect public health care

Protection of our public health care system always ranks as Canadians’ number one concern. It reflects deep Canadian values of fairness and accessibility in the provision of basic services that we all need. I hear all the time from people who are very worried about what the Conservative government is up to when it comes to health care.

This week, Victoria will host the Premiers’ conference on health care. But their meeting has already been undermined by the federal Finance Minister’s unilateral declaration on future federal funding for health care, when the current Health Accord runs out in 2014.

Last week, the Parliamentary Budget Office indicated in a report that the government’s new formula will reduce the proportion of federal funding to health care. This leaves the provinces holding the bag and will cause enormous pressure in the long run on the provision of vitally needed services.

It's becoming increasingly clear that the federal government is backing out of its role; abdicating any federal leadership on an issue critical to Canadians.

This is a disastrous course and will undermine the Canada Health Act. And on a financial level, contrary to Minister’s assertions, this is a rotten deal for the provinces, as evidenced by the PBO report.

The federal government's inaction on much needed reforms that were included in the current health accords is another indication of failed federal leadership.

Our current health system is designed to provide health care services according to the needs of Canadians. The Conservatives are saying that services will be provided according to the amount of money budgeted.

With this perspective, the Harper government is removing itself as a partner in improving Medicare and stepping away from the Canada Health Act. This hands-off approach will make our system weaker and will lead to greater medical privatization across the country.

After investing over $160 billion federally, in health care, many of the reforms included in the 2003-2004 health accords have seen little or even no improvement under the Conservative government.

Canadians have a hard time knowing if they are actually getting value for money when it comes to health care because there has been virtually no accountability.

The Advisory Committee on Governance and Accountability was supposed to help governments be accountable to the public, but it no longer exists.

All of this means we have to be very concerned and vigilant about sustaining our public health care system and making sure it meets the needs of Canadians today; including prescription drug coverage, long-term care, and home care. These are necessary programs and services that should be part of our public system.

Instead, the Conservatives are further setting the stage for private, for profit interests to move in and undermine the future of health care access and efficiency. A sustainable, health care system depends on more, not less, public coverage.

In Victoria this weekend, the federal NDP hosted a lively dialogue and roundtable discussion with key NGOs and Medicare advocates. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge in the community and we must draw on our common vision for an accessible and fair Medicare system that Canadians can reply on.

The public interest needs to be heard by the Premiers to make it clear that our public health care system must not be undermined.

We must break the myths that our public health care system is not sustainable. We must demand better, and ensure that the commitments made in the 2003/04 Health Accords are lived up to by both the provinces and the federal government.

We need to work together to take on the challenges that our system faces. I hope all of us can do what we can to ensure one of the most important elements of our Canadian identity remains a strong one.

Check out Libby's conversation with the Council of Canadians' Maude Barlow, as they discuss the importance of the Premiers' conference and the fight to sustain our public health care system:

This Blog Entry was posted on January 15, 2012
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