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Liberal Party Platform: A Patchwork Plan

In 1966, the Liberal Government of Canada passed a bill in the House of Commons that would guarantee all Canadians access to health care. Now 44 years later, the Liberal Government is relying on the provinces and territories to provide their health care platform.

The Liberal party released their campaign platform last week. In that paper they’ve highlighted the need for: catastrophic drug coverage, pharmacare, home came, a brain health strategy, new employment insurance benefits for family caregivers, and a couple of early prevention programmes to counter obesity. Additionally, they’ve promised incentives for doctors and nurses to practice in underserved communities. However, the Liberals fail to discuss how they are going to achieve many of these plans. In fairness, the provinces and territories do have some role to play in health care. However, the services that Canadians most need and want, such as: pharmacare and home care, need federal leadership, the kind we had in 1966.

The 2011 Liberal platform defers all health care plans and details to future discussions with provinces and territories. It leaves us questioning what exactly will happen with health care in our country if the Liberals are to win the election. What will this proposed home care program look like; what services will it cover; will it be expanded in every province and territory? What are these incentives to encourage health professionals to practice in rural communities? And what does “supporting the provinces and territories” really mean? With a Liberal government, will we end up with even more inequality between the each province and the territories?

Currently, public health care services in each province and territory differ slightly from one another based on the ability and willingness of provincial and territorial governments to provide public health care services that are in addition to those covered by the Canada Health Act (examples include: comprehensive drug coverage, midwifery, and so forth). The Liberals hint at assisting the provinces with bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals. But unless this is done on a federal level and not province-by-province (or territory) this plan would only continue the current trend of people being able to access and afford different drugs strictly due to the province they live in. If the government were to construct one national pharmaceutical drug plan, Canadians could save $10.7 billion per year and every person in Canada would have access to the drugs they need, regardless of where they live.

The solution to bringing pharmacare and home care into this country is through an expansion of the Canada Health Act or through stand-alone federal legislation, not through deals struck by individual provinces and territories. We need a federal government who will take the lead on these issues.

It’s time to implement phase two of Tommy Douglas’ health care plan for Canada and it’s time for strong federal leadership in favour of publicly funded health care for everyone.