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NEWS: Aglukkaq comments on the Canada Health Accord at the CMA convention

The Globe and Mail reports that Conservative Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq spoke at the Canadian Medical Association annual meeting in St. John’s on Monday. The article notes, “the minister offered few clues on the government’s approach to the country’s most politically delicate health file – renewing the deal that sets out the terms of $30-billion in annual health transfers from Ottawa. The current health accord, which includes annual increases of 6 per cent annually, expires in 2014.”

Notable in her speech:

1- ONE AGREEMENT “Ottawa plans to negotiate a single national health accord, not separate agreements with each of the provinces and territories, the federal health minister says. ‘We want one agreement,’ Leona Aglukkaq said… She said the position was non-negotiable.” There had been a report in late-May also in the Globe and Mail that “There won’t be a new health accord. …Instead of a long-term deal with all 13 provinces and territories, we can expect a short (two-year) extension of the current deal… (And) instead of an omnibus deal with all provinces and territories, …the new majority government (may) propose signing a series of bilateral agreements.”

2- 6 PER CENT INCREASES? “Ms. Aglukkaq told delegates to the Canadian Medical Association general council meeting that the 6-per-cent increases will continue beyond the year 2014, but would not say for how long. …But she did hint strongly that, in the future, the money Ottawa transfers to the provinces for health care will come with strings attached. ‘There will be a clear emphasis on accountability,’ Ms. Aglukkaq told the CMA.”

3- SENATE REPORT IN DECEMBER “Ms. Aglukkaq would not say what form the discussions would take, other than to say they will not begin before December of this year, when a Senate committee is set to publish a report reviewing the 2004 health accord. Asked specifically if there will be a first ministers’ meeting to hash out a deal – as most premiers have demanded – the Health Minister said: ‘I can’t speculate’.”

The article adds, “Libby Davies, health critic for the opposition New Democratic Party, said she was also frustrated by the Conservative government’s foot-dragging and secrecy. ‘Where does the government stand as we approach 2014? We all want to know. That’s the elephant in the room on the health-care file,’ she said. (The CBC notes Davies also said, “Things like a national pharmaceutical program, long-term care, home care, what Tommy Douglas called the second phase of Medicare. Every report that I’ve read, every organization that I’ve talked to, including the CMA, have raised this as the priority.”) Ms. Davies said it is important to remember that, when the previous health accord was signed in 2004, health transfers were boosted by $41-billion over 10 years and that was supposed to pave the way for initiatives such as pharmacare and a national home care strategy, but there was no follow through. This time around, she said, it is essential that there be reforms.”

In June, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “It is essential that our movements for social justice begin now to prepare for this coming fight and put out our key demands for a single omnibus accord as well as what it should look like. The 2014 negotiations should be used to strengthen our publicly funded system, which has proven itself to be both cost effective and fair, and we should be calling for a ‘Canada Health Accord Plus’ that includes home and senior care, aboriginal health and a pharmacare plan. …Canadians cherish our public health care system. With a Harper majority, it is now urgent that we stand on guard for it, lest it be destroyed by stealth in complicated negotiations and lost in a myriad of betrayals.”

The full Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/new-health/health-news/ottawa-seeks-one-national-health-accord-not-separate-pacts/article2137794/.