Canada's NDP


April 14th, 2020

Our health care advantage will need to be protected

This week Canada marked National Caregiver Day and World Health Day. That these occasions coincide with our efforts to contain a virus which threatens our ability to meet our health care needs while placing care-givers squarely in the middle of our efforts is nearly poetic. It’s also not a stretch to suggest that the challenges presented by the COIVD-19 pandemic are helping us understand how we may have under-valued or perhaps taken for granted the contribution of many individuals who perform great service in our communities and family circles. While we all try to be healthy, it is encouraging to know there are so many there to help us out when we need them. We should strive to keep it that way.

Prior to the pandemic the plight of many caregivers was already on the national political agenda, especially those who take time from work to provide care for a loved one. One example is how the NDP proposed extending Employment Insurance benefits so that they meet the needs of individuals who find themselves acting as caregivers. The benefit that does exist is not robust enough to allow someone to take care of a loved one over a longer time frame which limits options and ends up costing the care giver and their families more than it should. It’s not unreasonable to expect that the details of this proposal will be better received now that more of us can appreciate how vulnerable we become due to lost income.

Similarly, we celebrate our health care system in Canada, but it always seems to require some form of defence when it comes to budget allocation. The federal share of the program has dropped significantly over the years even though Canadians routinely rank health care among the most important political issues. In fact, we revere our system so much that the father of Medicare, Tommy Douglas was voted as the greatest Canadian in a nation-wide contest several years back. Recent events only confirm the value of our public system and should make defending and growing our capacity an easy political sell going forward.

These are among the issues which I have devoted a lot of my political efforts to over the years. The campaigns to maintain and protect our health care system have been a hall-mark of NDP efforts for decades going all the way back to its inception, first in Saskatchewan under a Tommy Douglas led CCF government, and nationally when he led the federal NDP which held the balance of power in a Liberal minority government.

The challenge going forward will be to protect our public health care as the bills for our pandemic relief measures come due. The argument should be simple, but it’s unlikely to be straight forward. There have always been those, who could afford it or stand to benefit from it, that have argued for a private health care system in Canada. The best way to counter that argument is with a robust system that is well funded and makes use of ways to help keep people out of the system such as the help offered by care-givers. That way we can maintain what makes us proud about the country and be prepared for any future public health challenges.