Friday morning at the Council of the Federation the premiers released a statement on “modernizing” fiscal arrangements. This statement included several points on health care and the need to “protect and sustain” medicare.
What is missing from the announcement is clearly the most interesting. There is nothing on the 2014 Health Accord or the need for federal accountability for health care. “Protect and sustain” health care means they’re not asking to “strengthen and expand” it. In other words, the premiers are happy with the absence of the federal government on health care.
What the premiers would like is more money- although they call it “modernized fiscal arrangements.” At least this means that they recognize that the new Canada Health Transfer arrangement hurts small, poorer and aging provinces the most.
They have also asked that the federal government stop downloading and offloading areas of health care that are within federal jurisdiction. This would include the elimination of RCMP and refugee health care and the cuts to veterans’ long-term care beds. The provinces are now offering these services without any additional funding.
What is truly disappointing is that, despite a rally of several thousand people who travelled to Niagara-on-the-Lake yesterday to demand a strong and united front from the premiers on health care, the premiers remain divided. They are not willing to call the Harper government to the 2014 Health Accord table. And yet, a Health Accord is the only way Canadians will have equitable access to public health care services across the country. Without an accord the patchwork system of public health care services and wait times will continue to grow and those in aging and poorer provinces will be waiting longer and have access to fewer services.
The premiers say they are calling for “reasonably comparable levels of public services with reasonably comparable levels of taxation.” Without a 2014 Health Accord this is simply not possible, and the Council of Canadians sees the refusal of the premiers to defend and strengthen public health care for everyone as simply unreasonable.