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NEWS: Canada Health Accord may hinge on Ontario election

Adrienne Silnicki speaks at Queen’s Park rally

The Globe and Mail reports, “Stephen Harper will be pressed to commit to a new 10-year health accord or he may be let off the hook on any long-term promise, depending on the outcome of the Ontario provincial election. …The Harper government has (only) promised to continue the health accord’s 6-per-cent annual escalations for two years beyond its expiry date in 2014.”

LIBERALS: ” (Liberal leader Dalton) McGuinty is critical of Mr. Harper for not being able to commit to something beyond two years. The problem, he said, is that medicare cannot be reformed in the short term and this is why he wants another 10-year deal like the one signed in 2004 between the premiers and Paul Martin’s short-lived Liberal government. …In addition, Mr. McGuinty wants the new federal-provincial accord to be aimed at seniors in the same way that the 2004 accord targeted and measured hospital waits in an effort to reduce them. …Mr. McGuinty said improving care for seniors – keeping them at home and out of hospitals and long-care term facilities – would keep health costs down and take the pressure off of the system.” The Toronto Star adds, “It used to be that Ottawa picked up 50 per cent of health costs but now the federal government pays only 23 per cent, McGuinty said. The federal government promised to increase health funding by 6 per cent, but that should be kept in perspective, he said. ‘They are saying they’ll increase their 23 per cent share by 6 per cent — the equivalent of increasing Ontario’s total health budget (of $47 billion) by 1.4 per cent,’ he said.”

NDP: “(NDP leader Andrea) Horwath…is also concerned that the deadline is quickly approaching. She met Monday in Ottawa with the federal NDP caucus – and much of her discussion revolved around the necessity of beginning negotiations on a long-term deal, she said in an interview. Her plan, however, would also emphasize long-term care, palliative care and home-care, and she supports the 6-per-cent escalation as a target.” The article implies Ms. Horwarth supports a second decade-long health accord.

PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES: “Asked if he would push the Prime Minister for a second 10-year accord, (Conservative leader Tim) Hudak would say only that he wants funding to continue. …(Mr. Hudak) asserts that the Liberals have already wasted money on projects such as e-health and local health integration networks.” The Toronto Star adds, “Hudak said McGuinty had damaged Ontario’s case for more federal health funding with the eHealth Ontario ‘boondoggle’ in 2009. ‘It is pretty tough to go there to the table with other provinces — for Dalton McGuinty — when he’s got a record of losing $1 billion on that eHealth scandal. Money that was supposed to be for health care that went into the pockets of Liberal-friendly consultants,’ he said. …Hudak ignored the fact that Auditor General Jim McCarter also blamed the problems at eHealth — and its predecessor Smart Systems for Health — on the Tory government that launched the electronic health records agency. …The Conservatives said, if elected, they will invest another $6.1 billion in health care before the end of a four-year mandate and they will chop waste in the system, such as getting rid of the 14 local health integration networks that have cost taxpayers $300 million.”

“A recent Nanos poll showed health care is the number one issue of concern for Ontario voters.” Voting day in Ontario is October 6.

THE COUNCIL OF CANADIANS

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.”

On September 13, the Council of Canadians participated in a large health care rally in Toronto calling on all provincial party leaders to commit to public health care. We had a hospital bed float in this rally which had loud-speakers playing messages from Council members expressing their support for safeguarding public health care. You can read more at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10464.

During this provincial election, we are encouraging supporters to ask five health care questions – developed by health care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki – of the candidates. One of the questions is, “There are many drugs that are currently unavailable to people living in Ontario that may be covered by other provinces and territories. Are you willing to ask the federal government to make universal pharmacare a top priority in the 2014 Health Care Accord?” For the rest of the questions, please see www.canadians.org/healthcare.

This coming November 24-25, we will be organizing a presence outside the first meeting of federal, provincial and territorial health ministers to negotiate the Canada Health Accord. This meeting will take place in Halifax. We’ll have more details on this soon.

From November 30-December 1, we are also co-sponsoring an event on Parliament Hill. A Friday evening public forum will feature a keynote address from Roy Romanow with a panel of key health care experts answering questions from the audience. The event will be available online and hopefully televised.

Then in January 2012, we will be organizing around the Council of the Federation (of provincial and territorial first ministers) meeting in British Columbia that will discuss the Canada Health Accord.

And for numerous blogs on the Canada Health Accord, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22canada+health+accord%22.