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Letter to Health Minister Philpott

Council of Canadians protest the loss of the Health Accord at the Council of the Federations, 2015

November 16, 2015

Hon. Dr. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health

House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6


Dear Minister Philpott,

On behalf of the Council of Canadians, please allow me to congratulate you on your appointment as Canada’s new Minister of Health. We look forward to working with you to strengthen our public health care system and to take advantage of this important opportunity to build a more equitable medicare system in Canada. As the 19th century German doctor Rudolph Virchow recognized even then, “If medicine is really to accomplish its great task, it must intervene in political and social life.”

There is much to be done. The last nine years have been a particularly difficult period in the history of medicare, Canada’s most cherished social program. As a physician you no doubt understand the ramifications that the lack of federal leadership in health care has had on families across the country. The list of offences is long: two-tiered policies that put the ability to pay over need, trade deals that protect costly brand name pharmaceuticals, non-enforcement of the Canada Health Act, cruel and unusual cuts to refugee health care, government reticence to acknowledge the importance of the social determinants of health, and resistance to implementing evidence-based policy over ideology. It is time for bold and audacious federal leadership in health care that is guided by the principle of improving the well being of all people in Canada. Health is political, and now more than ever, real leadership is needed.

It has been a pleasant surprise to see how quickly you and the new Liberal government have opened up a dialogue with the provinces and territories in order to renegotiate a health accord. For almost a decade, Council of Canadians chapters as well as thousands of supporters across the country have tirelessly advocated for a new agreement. With approximately $43.5 billion of health care funding still slated to be cut over the next eight years, it is critical that a new health accord be negotiated. It is our hope that the new federal government reverses the Harper government’s funding model to a per capita Canada Health Transfer model, and implements a 6 per cent escalator for federal transfers to the provinces to reach a minimum goal of 25 per cent federal funding of provincial health care costs.

Most importantly, the Council of Canadians encourages the new federal government to not simply mimic the past health accord, but to demonstrate real change and leadership by introducing a new “health accord-plus.” A robust and meaningful health accord would ensure that conditions be added to the transfer of dollars to provinces in order to put patients and the public health care system first. As well, for years, many provinces and the federal government have not been enforcing the Canada Health Act, one of the cornerstones of medicare, to its full extent. We hope a new health accord would include provisions to strengthen enforcement of the act and serious penalties for violations.

Lastly, with one in ten Canadians not being able to afford their prescription medications our new government has a unique opportunity to institute a universal and comprehensive pharmacare program. The current patchwork system has a tremendously negative effect on the health of Canadians. A pharmacare program is long overdue. Canadians are calling for federal leadership to implement a universal national drug plan beyond bulk purchasing.

As a physician and health advocate I am sure you understand that Canada’s universal public health care system cannot be taken for granted. Medicare is a fragile accomplishment that has been achieved through our collective actions and our compassion for one another. While you will certainly face many challenges as you diligently work to strengthen health care in Canada, there are also many solutions and you have many allies. The Council of Canadians looks forward to working with you and the new Liberal government to create the conditions for all people to enjoy lasting health.

We will be contacting you to request a meeting at your convenience – either in Ottawa or in your riding – to further discuss how we can protect, strengthen and expand our public health care system.


Michael Butler

Health Care Campaigner, The Council of Canadians