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VIEW: A ‘Canada Health Accord plus’ is needed, says Barlow

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow writes, “It is with trepidation that Canadians should anticipate the approach of 2014, the end of the 10-year health accord signed in 2004 between the federal government and the provinces, necessitating a new round of negotiations on federal transfer payments for health care. The 2004 accord set out an extra $41.2 billion in dedicated funding for health care issues such as waiting times, expanding home care and dealing with high drug costs as well as a six per cent increase in health transfer payments each year form the federal to the provincial governments. However, when the accord expires, this annual increase is no longer guaranteed. Many worry that the Harper government will take this moment to fundamentally change the nature of health care delivery in Canada, giving more authority to the provinces but finding ways to down load the fiscal responsibility at the same time.”

“The Globe and Mail’s Andre Picard warns that, instead of a long term deal with all 13 provinces and territories, we can expect a short (two year) extension of the current one, followed not by an omnibus deal, but a series of individual bilateral deals with each. He notes that for all his talk on the coming negotiations on the health accord, Stephen Harper has never committed to a first ministers’ meeting nor to a single agreement with all the provinces and territories.”

Barlow highlights, “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.”

To read Maude’s full commentary, go to the Huffington Post Canada website at http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/maude-barlow/health-care-canada_b_876984.html.