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NEWS: Health care to get ‘scant attention’ in federal budget, March 22

Jamian Logue at the September 2004 protest

Jamian Logue at the September 2004 protest

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that, “The looming expiry (in 2014) of a major national health accord (the Canada Health Accord) is creating large uncertainties around future funding but health will likely get scant mention in the federal budget that is scheduled to be released next week. Although it now eats up more than 40 per cent of provincial budgets, health care consumes less than 13 cents of every federal spending dollar. That’s an equation the federal government is not eager to change as it grapples with a deficit of tens of billions of dollars.”

COUNCIL CRITICISMS IN 2004: On September 13-16, 2004, federal, provincial and territorial first ministers met in Ottawa and signed the ten-year Canada Health Accord. The Council of Canadians was present in large numbers outside that meeting. While then-prime minister Paul Martin’s government reinvested needed billions in our health care system, the prime minister and provincial premiers failed to take any steps to protect medicare from privatization. We said on September 16, 2004, “The First Ministers have failed to defend medicare from privatization. While the new federal funding for health care is needed and welcome, other equally important measures have been ignored by the First Ministers during their meeting in Ottawa. ‘To not address privatization,’ says Robert Chernomas, an economist and board member with the Council of Canadians, ‘can only be seen as irresponsible or a tacit endorsement of private delivery. Either way, the First Ministers have let Canadians down.'” With the renewal of the Canada Health Accord due in 2014, we are again demanding that there be adequate federal funding for health care and that the threat of privatization be addressed.

FLAHERTY SUGGESTS CUT TO ANNUAL INCREASES IN HEALTH CARE SPENDING: The Globe and Mail reported last November that, “Canada’s provinces are bracing for a showdown with the Harper government as they approach the deadline for a new federal medicare-funding deal… The (federal) transfers are crucial because about 20 cents of every dollar the provinces spend on health care comes from Ottawa. They are slated to receive annual increases of 6 per cent until the Canada Health Transfer Program expires in fiscal 2013-14. …So far, the only public statement on the prospects for a new health-funding deal is a suggestion from Finance Minister (Jim Flaherty) of applying the brakes to spending increases. …Flaherty hinted in his annual economic update (in October 2010) that he wants to tie the increase in transfers to inflation and economic growth, both of which are projected to remain in the range of 0 to 2 per cent in coming years. …It remains to be seen whether public statements and proposals will enter the dangerous territory of new revenues or new ways to harness private and profit-seeking health enterprises.”

SENATE REVIEW TO CHART HEALTH TRANSFERS PAST 2014: The Globe and Mail report today continues, “A critical evaluation of the Canada Health Transfer – the deal that will send about $27-billion from Ottawa to the provinces in 2011-12 – must be conducted every three years. It is a job that has normally been given to the health committee of the House of Commons. But Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has instead asked the Conservative-dominated Senate social affairs committee to conduct the final review before the accord expires. The Senate committee has only recently begun to hear from interested parties. If there is no election, the earliest it is expected to report back to Parliament is the fall. If a federal vote is called, it could be delayed well beyond that. Liberal Senator (and former Toronto mayor) Art Eggleton, who chairs the committee, said the report is expected to chart the path for any health transfers that take place past 2014.”

LIBERAL AND NDP CONCERNS: “Those who harbour suspicions about Ms. Aglukkaq’s motives in turning the review over to the Senate include opposition critic Ujjal Dosanjh, a Liberal MP and former health minister. The Conservatives are placing one of the most important issues facing Canadians in the hands of unelected senators, Mr. Dosanjh said. Megan Leslie, the NDP health critic, said Ms. Aglukkaq’s decision is extremely troubling. ‘The minister is hiding behind an unelected and unaccountable Senate to review this. I think it’s undemocratic,’ said Ms. Leslie, who has raised the issue several times in the House of Commons. …Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly stressed that health care is the purview of the provinces, but Ms. Leslie said she would like to see some acknowledgment by the Harper government that it has a role to play in health care – especially if that meant budget money for items like home care and pharmacare that she said would save money in the long run.”

The Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/provinces-health-care-providers-hold-out-hope-for-help-in-budget/article1942000/.