Skip to content

86% of Canadians support public health care, so why doesn’t the Conservative Government?

I don’t have to convince you, or many Canadians for that matter, that health care is a top priority. A Nanos poll released March 18th suggests that 45 per cent of Canadians think the federal government should make health care a top priority in the budget1.

The budget was released yesterday and health care is anything but a top priority.  While no cuts to the provincial transfer of federal funding were made, no increases were granted either. With such a clear mandate from Canadians, why is the government refusing to invest more in our most cherished social programme?

During the 2004 Health Care Accord, the Government committed to a National Pharmaceutical Strategy. It’s now seven years later and the plan has been abandoned. Yet, 86 percent of Canadians believe in a program that will ensure that all Canadians have reasonable access to prescription drugs based on need and not ability to pay2. And in a time of  supposed “economic action plans” it’s infuriating that the government would ignore the obvious cost savings that a single-purchaser policy like pharmacare could afford us. Marc-André Gagnon and Guillaume Hébert’s paper The Economic Case for Universal Health Care, crunches the numbers for us and comes out with several approaches that the government could take to a national drug plan, one of which saves us $10.7 billion a year.

The recent economic recession has caused the lost of approximately half a million full-time, permanent jobs. This means that people have also lost their health, dental, and retirement benefits3.  According to Statistics Canada, twenty-four percent of Canadians have no drug coverage and eight percent of Canadians claim that they did not fill a prescription in the last twelve months. Yet, the Conservative Government has ignored the calls for cheaper and more accessible drugs. And, they continue to negotiate a new trade agreement with the European Union that could extend the patent on drugs by fifteen years and cost Canadians an additional $2.8 billion annually4! Who is Steven Harper looking out for, us, or the pharmaceutical share holders?

The same Nanos poll indicated that 86 percent of Canadians also support home care5. Home care has been shown to relieve hospital beds, reduce wait times, and save the public system money.  Home care brings health care professions into a person’s home, which allows people to leave the hospital and be with their families earlier. It’s a socially and fiscally responsible programme with overwhelming public support. The Conservative Government’s answer to home care spending has been a tax credit a 15-per-cent credit on an amount of $2,000 for a family caregiver6. That’s a far cry from expanding a much needed and supported health care programme.

Numbers from 45-86% are enormous. There is a resounding mandate from the people of Canada to support their public health care system. As we approach election time, Canadians need to be asking all political parties about their commitment to publicly funded health care. We need a government who will invest in comprehensive community care (home care and long-term care) and is willing to look at sustainable solutions to the current health care challenges, not a government who listens to the pharmaceutical lobbyists hoping to pad the pockets of their investors and share holders. This election, let’s put someone in power who will follow where the people lead.

1 April Lim. Health care Canadians’ top priority for budget: poll. Postmedia News. March 18, 2011
3 CCPA. Rethink, Rebuild, Renew: Alternative Federal Budget 2011. March 15th, 2011. http://www.policyalternatives.ca/afb2011
4 Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association (CGPA) . The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement An Economic Impact Assessment of Proposed Pharmaceutical Intellectual Property Provisions. February, 11th, 2011.  http://www.canadiangenerics.ca/en/news/docs/02.07.11CETAEconomicImpactAssessment-FinalEnglish11.pdf
5 April Lim. Health care Canadians’ top priority for budget: poll. Postmedia News. March 18, 2011
6 Government of Canada. Budget 2011. http://www.budget.gc.ca/2011/plan/Budget2011-eng.pdf. Page 103.