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Voting for health care in Monday’s federal by-election

By Adrienne Silnicki and Mark Calzavara

On Monday November 25, there will be federal by-elections in Toronto Centre, the Montreal riding of Bourassa and the Manitoba ridings of Provencher and Brandon-Souris. 

The Harper Conservatives have announced that they will cut $36 billion from health care in Canada after the current health accord expires. For Ontario, this will mean the loss of $14 billion.

Earlier this week we wrote to the Toronto Centre by-election candidates (NDP, Liberal, Conservative and Greens) asking for their commitment to reverse Harper’s cuts to health care by restoring the annual six per cent increases. Only the Liberals and NDP responded. Below is the question we asked each candidate and their full answers.


If your party forms the next federal government, will you meet with the Premiers to negotiate a Health Accord and reinstate the six per cent escalator in the Canada Health Transfer before 2017?


Yes. New Democrats have a practical plan to strengthen our public health care system. Tom Mulcair is the only federal leader who has committed to re-instate the 6 per cent escalator in health transfers to the provinces as an absolute minimum.

After six years in government, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have failed to improve public health care. Instead, they’re cutting $36-billion in funding across Canada—even before our provincial Health Accords come up for renegotiation in 2014. This is simply unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the Liberals are standing silent on health care, offering no plan, no specific solution and only empty rhetoric. Justin Trudeau has not even been clear whether he will enforce the Canada Health Act to maintain our public health care system.

New Democrats know that publicly funded health care is a top priority for Canadians, and they deserve clear answers to clear questions. In addition to restoring the 6% escalator as a minimum, Tom Mulcair has committed to hold bi-annual meetings with key provincial and territorial stakeholders. 

We will uphold the principles of the Canada Health Act, and work to expand our public system to include critical services like prescription medications and home, palliative, and long term care, and renewed investment in community health centres. We want to work with provinces and territories to expand and maintain public coverage of prescription drugs to ensure that every Canadian can afford medication when they fall ill. We can establish a common list of drugs to be covered and save costs by using common bargaining power in purchases.

The NDP will negotiate financial transfers to provinces and territories to expand home care and long-term care services across Canada, and will establish high standards of care and identify best practices with the provinces. Health care also needs to be more patient centred, with accessible inter-disciplinary teams providing a range of primary care services.

New Democrats recognize the importance of focusing on the social determinants of health. Decent incomes, food and housing strategies, and a strong social safety net will help to raise living conditions and strengthen our communities while reducing strains on our health care programs. Together, a more equal society will make us all healthier. 

I believe we can do better. It is time to lay out concrete proposals for change, and advocate to strengthen and expand our valuable public system. 

I invite you to take a look at ndp.ca/health to find out more about our work. “


Yes, we would meet with the provinces, territories, and Aboriginal Peoples to negotiate a new health accord. 

That agreement would ensure we are making the investments necessary to ensure Canadians are able to access universal, single-payer, high-quality care when they need it, where they need it, and should include funding for things like expanding progress in wait time reductions, expanding mental health care, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, expanding access to community care, home and long term care, and making sure we are training and supporting enough health and health care workers to meet these objectives.

A new health agreement should also aim to make progress in improving the health of Canadians, and should be directly linked to progress in the social determinants of health, including access to affordable housing, food security, and income security.

 A new deal should also include a strong health accountability framework which establishes quality and performance reporting across jurisdictions to reinforce transparency in the system and optimize better health outcomes.

Green Party:

The Green Party campaign referred us to their website http://www.greenparty.ca/

The Conservatives:

We did not get a response from the Conservative candidate.

Our analysis: 

We need MPs that will play a strong role in strengthening, protecting and expanding our public health care system. When the federal government contributes a significant amount of health care dollars, it positions them to play a strong and active role in health care. In the past, federal health care dollars have been attached to progressive and innovative policies that strengthened our public health care system. When provinces or territories violated the Canada Health Act by illegally charging patients, the federal government withheld funding. This hurt the provinces and territories and they would quickly drop private charges.

Without fair and significant federal funding, who will ensure that Ontario respects the Canada Health Act and doesn’t force patients to pay for medically necessary services?

The NDP was the only party that committed to maintaining at least a six per cent escalating Canada Health Transfer (CHT).

Both the NDP and the Liberals agreed to hold a Health Accord, which is significant because it gives an opportunity for everyone to work together to strengthen public health care.

The Greens do not state what amount of funding they’d provide to health care. And the Conservatives have committed to reducing the federal share from its current 20 per cent to 18 per cent by 2024.  

Ontario has been on an aggressive privatization path for years now and the loss of $14 billion will lead to more services being sold to private, for-profit corporations which will charge Canadians for accessing health care.

We encourage you to continue the conversation on the need for a strong federal commitment to public health care with all by-election candidates.