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NEWS: Canadians believe health care should be top priority in the upcoming federal budget

Council of Canadians health care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki will be following the budget

Postmedia News reports, “Despite all the talk about the economy, Canadians believe health care should be top priority in the upcoming federal budget, a poll suggests. A poll released this week found that 45 per cent of surveyed Canadians said the federal government should make health care – a topic the government and federal politicians are often shy to talk about – a priority in next week’s budget. That’s compared with 35 per cent who chose the economy, and 15 per cent who picked the environment.”

Photo: Council of Canadians health care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki will be following the budget

“Nanos Research conducted the national telephone survey for the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association between March 12 and 15. …The 1,216 randomly selected Canadians favoured a range of possible health-care budget initiatives. Canadians said they thought it was important to have programs that promote health and wellness (86 per cent); as well as home care, to allow patients to go back home with the assistance of their families and friends and support from a healthcare professional (86 per cent). Those surveyed also supported a comprehensive national strategy to help Canadians age as healthfully as possible (84 per cent) and a program that will ensure that all Canadians have reasonable access to prescription drugs based on need and not on their ability to pay (86 per cent). They also gave high support for long-term care in a specialized setting for patients who need assistance and health-care support outside of hospital (86 per cent). …Survey respondents also supported: investing in a clean environment (88 per cent); addressing challenges such as wait times for care or finding a primary care provider (85 per cent); investments in health research (83 per cent); and investing in an electronic health record for every Canadian (77 per cent).”

HARPER SAYS HEALTH TRANSFERS WON’T BE CUT: The Globe and Mail reports that until Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech in Toronto this past Thursday there has been “silence” from the federal government on their upcoming budget. “Mr. Harper declared, ‘Program spending this coming year is essentially flat.’ …Mr. Harper’s speech to a Toronto-area business group otherwise simply reiterated previous announcements. The deficit declined by a quarter in 2010-2011 from the year before, and will do the same next year; the Conservatives will not cut funding to the provinces, which means transfers for health care will continue to increase by no less than 6 per cent a year even after an accord with the provinces expires in 2014.” Another Globe and Mail article highlights, “With a major national accord on health funding – which sucks up more than 40 per cent of provincial budgets – set to expire in 2014, provinces have been looking for some certainty that Ottawa might be willing to do more to help them manage a system they say is busting at the seams. The Harper government, however, seems unlikely to be able to offer much more aid than the current 6-per-cent annual increase in health transfers, given its central priority of eliminating the federal deficit by 2015-16.”

VIEWS ON THE BUDGET: And another Postmedia News article reports, “Canadians are not keen on opposition parties defeating the Harper government over next week’s budget but strongly believe the fiscal blueprint should include spending for seniors, health care and pensions, results of a new poll indicate. …Results of the nationwide survey, done for Postmedia News and Global National, also suggest that most Canadians: want ‘aggressive’ spending cuts to reduce the deficit; oppose corporate tax cuts; and would not look kindly on the Conservative government giving billions of dollars to Quebec to compensate it for harmonizing its taxes with the HST. The Ipsos Reid poll found that only 27 per cent of Canadians believe the opposition parties should vote against the budget. A further 17 per cent believe the opposition should wait to see what’s in the budget before deciding what to do, while 40 per cent say the budget should be supported. Sixteen per cent had no opinion.”

TORIES STILL LEAD IN THE POLLS: “The poll, conducted March 7 to 9, found the Conservatives were still well-positioned as they prepare for the vote in the Commons. If an election had been held last week, 40 per cent of decided voters would have supported the Tories, a three percentage point drop from the last poll in February. Support for the Liberals remained unchanged at 27 per cent, while the NDP’s support grew by three percentage points, to 16 per cent. The Green party would receive five per cent of the vote.”

WILL THE GOVERNMENT BE DEFEATED ON A BUDGET VOTE? The thinking is yes, but “If one of the three parties supports Harper’s government, an election likely wouldn’t occur until the spring or fall of 2012. The Liberals have made it clear they will vote against the budget. The New Democrats might support the budget if it contains elements of proposals they are advocating, such as: increased guaranteed income supplements for seniors; enhancement of the Canada Pension Plan; and more doctors and nurses in Canada.”

The news articles are at http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Health+care+tops+list+budget+priorities+poll/4469278/story.html, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/finance-minister-keeps-low-profile-in-lead-up-to-budget/article1946847/, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/budget-to-pare-back-deficit-by-25-in-coming-year-pm-vows/article1946272/, and http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Canadians+hope+opposition+supports+budget+poll/4447631/story.html.