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We Can Hear the Drummin’ and the Drummond Aint Good

I’m writing this blog because I’m anxious about the Drummond report being release today. Two hours left until the launch of what the media is referring to as “D(rummond)-Day” and I’ve read every report, speculation, leaked recommendation available and I’m following Twitter like it’s my job…which it kinda is today!

So what have I figured out in advance of the report? Well pretty much the same stuff I put in the blog two days ago and Mark commented on a month ago. Drummond, as many of you will know, is a former TD Bank chief economist. He is known for being pro-privatisation and has gone as far as saying that the Canada Health Act is “irrelevant” in a CBC interview. Despite this, the Government of Ontario hired him (for no less than $1500 a day!) to commission a report on public services and where the government could find cuts to rid itself of a $16 billion deficit.

Drummond’s report will not look at the revenue side of the equation. Instead, Drummond has been task only with expenditures and he’s been reported to have said that Ontario’s growth in spending should be limited to one per cent per year. When you take population growth and inflation into account, this would leave Ontario cutting 2.2 per cent of their budget per year.

The OHC has slammed the McGuinty government for not taking appropriate steps- or even talking about doing so- to close the Employer Health Tax loophole, a major source of revenue…not to mention inequality. Others have called on the government to focus on job creation, not cutting services which will only slow the economy further while Ontario is recovering from a recession. The Registered Nurses Association of Ontariois calling on the government to raise taxes on corporations and high-income households and they’ve found that the majority of Ontarians agree with them.

Diana Gibson at the Victoria Townhall last month gave a presentation on health care and spending and if I can quote her directly here, she said: “Direct spending on health care and education, if you look at the government’s own multipliers, give you ‘better bang for your buck’ in terms of job creation and economic growth for any dollar spent…than if you gave it away as a tax cut”.

There are other ways to save money than just cut services. The Council of Canadians and our pro-public health care allies have been writing prescriptions to provincial, territorial, and federal governments for years showing them evidence-based ways to reform health care. Putting laboratories into hospitals creates better patient outcome and saves money (listen to Joe Healy, Medical Labratory Technologist at the 4:02 mark); pharmacare would save Ontarians $2 billion a year; stopping the creation of public private partnerships would save millions of dollars per hospital; community care clinics with team based approaches, home care and continuing care instead of emergency care…the list is long but the solution is simple: invest in public health care– that which is funded and delivered publicly- is the most sustainable and cost-effective way to ensure quality care. Privatizing the system leads to lower quality and higher expenditures out-of-pocket and by government. Cheap health care doesn’t mean low quality care. In fact, cheap care means public care, and public care has shown to be of higher quality than for-profit care which cuts corners to give investors their profits.

But Drummond’s job is simply to find cuts and not to worry about how those cuts will affect Ontarians. McGuinty is trying to hush those upset at the process by saying that not all of Drummond’s policies will be implemented. I don’t know how that’s supposed to make any of us relax. The bottom line is whatever is in this report today- and judging by the trial balloons it’s not going to be ‘strengthen the public system’- it’s going to be rough and until we can have a full conversation about both sides of the coin- expenditures and revenues- and until the government is prepared to look at the sustainable solutions- not just a short-term vision for Ontario- I’m with Joe Healy (see above) when do we take to the streets?!

(Title courtesy of the incredibly creative Maryam Adrangi!)