In August, our health (?) minister Leona Aglukkaq blew off an important meeting of the Canadian Medical Association, prompting Andre Picard to ask:
Does Canada still have a federal health minister? And, more important, does it have a government with the slightest interest in maintaining the national health-insurance program called medicare? For all practical purposes, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “No.” Leona Aglukkaq, who holds the title of Minister of Health, was glaringly absent this week from the Canadian Medical Association gathering in Niagara Falls, Ont.And Maxime Bernier, who would not have been allowed to speak without permission from his boss, is promising to put an end to federal health transfers, suggesting that provinces raise their own money for health services.
Make no mistake about it. This means eliminating the Canada Health Act, which guarantees all Canadians equal access to healthcare. You are treated based on the degree of your illness or injury, not the size of your wallet.
And with the Harper government claiming that our aging population means that the government can no longer provide free healthcare, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives disagrees. They say the reports that Harper is using, prepared by, you guessed it, the Fraser Institute; are misleading.
The OECD’s latest report on Canada’s economy emphasizes the challenge of rising healthcare costs. It contains several propositions, but only three have received media coverage and acclaim. These are that current trends are “unsustainable”, and that solutions lie in user fees and further privatization.A recent poll asking what the most important concern of Canadians was, showed that 2/3 want public healthcare maintained and 54% said that they would pay more in taxes to support Canada's healthcare system.
These three propositions are seriously flawed. First the report charts total healthcare costs, not just public expenditures, to make its unsustainable cost case. Including private with public costs greatly exaggerates the case. Secondly it attributes much of the challenge to an aging population. Research has found that this phenomenon adds only 1% annually to healthcare costs. Population aging is also estimated to peak around 2030. To propose radical changes to our system in response to a phenomenon which is both gradual and temporary is hardly justified. Finally, whatever the cost drivers, since 1997 provincial and federal governments between them have foregone close to $300 billion by way of corporate and income tax cuts. That’s a lot of healthcare. The OECD summarily dismisses any prospect of restoring some of the past tax cuts.
But there is no reason to put the tax burden onto the public. Cancel the corporate tax cuts, the military hardware and the new prisons. It's a no-brainer.