Future of health care weakened by Prime Minister’s inaction
January 20th, 2012 - 2:22pm
One of the items central to Canadian identity is Medicare. Publicly funded health care system is a great leveller in our society, especially when compared with the largely private system in the United States. Protection of public health care is always at, or near the top of, issue rankings among Canadians, which makes it ever so puzzling that Stephen Harper would stay away from a meeting with the Premiers on the subject last week in Victoria.
What needs to be asked is why the Prime Minister is seemingly uninterested in the subject. While it is true that the provinces deliver and largely fund health care, it is the federal transfers that create our common bond. With the Prime Minister signalling that he no longer wants to be involved in determining how health care is delivered, or what shape it will take, he has reduced the federal government’s role to that of merely cutting cheques. In doing so, his government has shown that they want nothing to do with any discussions about how we can improve Medicare.
Despite all-time low federal contributions, this government has also made commitments it is not honouring. Some may recall promises to act on a federal-provincial agreement to save billions through a National Pharmaceutical Strategy - but very few tools were ever developed. Meanwhile, the Advisory Committee on Governance and Accountability that was supposed to help governments be accountable to the public doesn’t even exist anymore. If the Conservatives want Medicare to succeed, they have a funny way of showing it.
Canada has spent over $160 billion on health care since the 2003/04 health accords were hammered out. Despite that significant contribution, we have seen little or no improvement in many of the reforms promised at the time.
One quickly concludes the Conservatives would be quite happy to let Medicare fail and have for-profit health care fill the void. Their actions do nothing to dispel this notion. For a government that is trying to trim fat across the board they have no interest in taking a leadership role in ensuring the bureaucracy is not redundantly wasting taxpayers hard-earned contributions. No movement on pharmaceuticals which could save great sums of money for every jurisdiction. These should be attractive ideas to a government set on tightening the belt. That they are not shows that the level of concern for the future of Medicare is at an all-time low in the office of the Prime Minister.
Canadians want and deserve a single payer health care system that is proactive about using resources wisely and offers the best value for our investment. Whether we are getting that or not is debatable, but with the federal government excusing itself from the process, the chances of proper scrutiny is greatly reduced.
Stephen Harper should be standing up for all of Canada – that is the Prime Minister’s job. Instead, he is brushing off important meetings and putting a cheque in the mail. We all deserve better.