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Harper: Not Here for Public Health Care

Like a bad boyfriend, Harper is here only until the moment you need him. If you’re healthy, active, financially well off, “hard-working”, and “law-abiding”; then Harper thinks you’re swell.  However, if you can’t check off each box on Harper’s superficial list, Harper will dump you and run off with your richer, prettier, more athletic best friend before your diagnoses is read.

But seriously, in the 67- page Conservative Government party platform, Stephen Harper gives a whopping total of one page to what 45 per cent1 of Canadians have listed as their number one election issue: health care.

To those 40 per cent of Atlantic Canadians who indicated that they would consider changing their vote in a federal election if the party they usually support fails to present a plan for the future of health care2, if any of you usually support the Conservatives, it’s time to start shopping around.

The Conservative Government’s platform is about status quo.  If you think our health care system needs to be strengthened, improved, or expanded, then this platform is not for you. In fact, the only way the Conservatives may change health care is in a way that 90 per cent of Canadians don’t support, by privatizing it3.

Let’s play the game “Decode What the Politicians are Saying.”  When they say “We are committed to the Canada Health Act” we have to ask, then why have they failed to enforce the principles and provisions of the CHA? Clinics like Dr. Day’s Cambie surgical clinic would have a much harder time existing in Canada if the Conservatives enforced the rules against extra billing and user fees for medically necessary services. And if the Conservatives really were a national defender of our publically-funded system, the party wouldn’t tell provinces to experiment with alternative service delivery, which is an obvious nod to privatization4.

When the Conservatives write “We will respect the fact that health care is an area of provincial jurisdiction and respect the limits on federal spending power” they are really saying that they’re again, open to privatization by refusing to tie federal dollars to programs that would strengthen the public health care system. In 1966, the people of Canada mandated the government to provide a universal system that would ensure the health of Canadians across this country. Ensuring that each province and territory in Canada has suitable and equitable funding to provide this service is the role of our federal government. Ensuring that Canadians are receiving the medically necessary services they need in a timely manner, regardless of their ability to pay, is the job of our federal government. And enforcing the principles of the Canada Health Act: public administration, portability, comprehensiveness, accountability, and universality; is the role of our federal government. So why wouldn’t the government tie the dollars that they give to provinces and territories to programs that will strengthen and expand the public health care system? Because Harper’s agenda is all about allowing the provinces “freedom” to spend health care dollars wherever they want so that when one government increases its private delivery of health care services and under NAFTA all of Canada’s public health delivery is forced to open to private U.S. companies, Mr. Harper can claim it wasn’t him.  The Conservatives need to stop copping out and start being accountable to Canadians!

The only other health related item in this platform (with the exception of a gym tax credit that won’t be implemented for another four years, at the very earliest) is apparently an attempt to send more doctors and nurses to rural communities. The problem here has to do with the barriers for people to get into school. Ask any student about their debt load after four years of university, and you’re bound to hear complaints. Many students are dealing with huge loan repayments. To train to be a medical professional is inaccessible to many because of the initial cost of education. Having some debt relieved after finishing your program is fine, but it doesn’t address the initial and often largest barriers for our student doctors and nurses.

With no commitment to strengthen or expand the Canada Health Act; with no mention of home care, pharmacare, or continuing care; the Conservative platform on health care is just one more reason why Harper is not here for Canada.


1April Lim. Health care Canadians’ top priority for budget: poll. Postmedia News. March 18, 2011
2CBC. Health care top Atlantic Canada Issue: poll. April 2nd, 2011.
3Institute for Research on Public Policy. New Poll from Policy Options Examines our Attitude to Universal Public Health Care. http://www.nanosresearch.com/library/polls/POLNAT-S09-T394E.pdf
4CBC Television’s The National. June 23, 2004http://healthcoalition.ca/archive/decoder.pdf and
“We also support the exploration of alternative ways to deliver health care. Moving toward alternatives, including those provided by the private sector, is a natural development of our health care system.”- Stephen Harper, Toronto Star, October 2002.