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Council of the Federation Meeting & Health Care 2011

This week the Council of the Federation, made up of the 13 first ministers from each province and territory will be meeting in B.C. to talk health care and the economy. According to the Federation’s website , the Ministers will focus much of their discussions over the meeting on “family health” and “innovation and sustainability in health care”.

It’s a crucial time for the provinces and territories to be conversing with one another. 2014 and the renegotiation of the Health Care Accord is quickly approaching. Don’t be fooled by the 2014 deadline, this Accord will be finalized perhaps years before then. Provinces and territories need to gather together before the Accord’s renegotiation with the federal government.

As Chantal Hébert, of the Toronto Star wrote in her column on July 12th, 2011, this Accord could be “written in red ink in the provinces”. Many people are speculating that Prime Minister Harper will try to negotiate a health care deal one-on-one with each province and territory. This should be unacceptable to Canadians. The federal government holds power over the provinces regarding health care because the federal government controls the purse strings. The provinces are only able to approach a more level playing field when they can negotiate as a group and together demand a fair tax transfer (an escalating six per cent was agreed to in 2004 – the last health care accord negotiation).

Despite Premier Christy Clark’s warm welcome message to the premiers, this meeting will not just be a friendly gathering of premiers. You don’t need to dig deep to find who will be closely watching the decisions made at this meeting. At the 2010 meeting, premiers had agreed to bulk purchase some pharmaceuticals to get a discount. While the meeting is invitation only, there will be significant representation from pharmaceutical giants, if not in-person, at least in name. Among these sponsors are companies such as: R&D– who represents GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer, and Pfizer, among many others: Johnson & Johnson – who have their own pharmaceutical company; Amgen– a biotechnology firm that creates medicines; and Borealis Infrastructures– who specializes in investing and managing long-term care facilities and Ontario’s hospitals. Let’s hope our premiers can stay focused on working together for the benefit of Canadians and our health care and not solely in the interests of pharmaceutical giants.

The meeting starts Wednesday, July 20th and will conclude Friday, July 22nd with a closing news conference that afternoon. I encourage you all to write a letter to your premier, wishing them luck at the conference and reminding them that they’re there to work collaboratively with other premiers for your best interest.