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Economic Inaction Plan 2014 — One Step Closer to Elimination of Universal Health Care

On page 279 of Jimbo Flaherty’s latest budget which was declared pretty much a yawner by the punditry, ignored by the masses more interested in gold medals in Sochi,  is Stevie Harper’s main dream to kill universal health care.  We shouldn’t be surprised though; not long ago, Stevie closed the  Health Council of Canada one is talking about it and I wonder why? The columnists and journos certainly haven’t touched it.  After all, any further erosion of universal health care affects them too.  It affects all of us.

Below are some of the delights .

Federal transfer payments to provinces were first used in order to establish national standards in health care delivery across Canada. On Tuesday, February 11th, Prime Minister Harper turned this on its head by tabling a budget that will use federal transfers in order to eliminate national standards in health care.

Buried on page 279 of the 2014 federal budget is a measure that will make it next to impossible for provinces to provide health care services on equal terms and conditions. The purpose of this budget item is to strike a blow to the heart and soul of universal health care in Canada.

Basically, the equalization formula for Canadian Health care transfers will be scrapped and replaced with a newfangled per capita formula. This means that have not provinces along with those with a smaller population will not be able to provide adequate health care for all.

The Harper government is eliminating the equalization portion of the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) and replacing it with an equal per capita transfer. This means that less populous provinces with relatively larger and more isolated populations will have more and more difficulty delivering more expensive universal health services.

Likewise, provinces with relatively larger proportion of older residents will also be hampered in delivering universal quality care. The move to an equal per capita cash transfer will widen the gap between the have and the have-not provinces and make it next to impossible to maintain national standards in health care.

It is estimated by the Premiers that this one budgetary move will create a funding gap for the have-not provinces of $16.5 billion over the next 5 years. The only province to benefit from this change is Alberta, with its growing, younger population.

For those wondering, Justice Emmett Hall, dubbed as “Father of Medicare” , alongside Tommy Douglas had basically said that without equalization, the medicare system would not work .

A brief explanation of the numbers below.

This regressive budgetary change will be matched with a second regressive measure. Beginning in 2017, the six percent annual increase for the health transfer will be replaced with a formula that links the health transfer to economic growth. This means that in times of high unemployment and economic downturn – when Canadians need access to care the most – the federal transfer will be reduced. This measure alone will result in a $36 billion cut in federal funding for health care over the next decade.

With Harper’s cuts to health care funding, the share of federal CHT cash payments in provincial-territorial health spending will decrease substantially from 20.4 per cent in 2010-11 to less than 12% over the next 25 years. This, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, will bring the level of federal cash support for health care to historical lows. National Medicare was implemented across Canada by provinces and territories on the understanding that the federal government would contribute roughly 50 percent of the spending on Medicare.

Once again, another measure to “starve the beast” as they say.  Stevie gets rid of universal health care by starving the provinces of it.  Provinces, in turn, of course, will privatize. A scary thought.

The scary thing about all of this is that while polls claim that Canadians prefer to maintain universal health care overall, why are they not speaking out? Why the complacency?  How long will the masses bury their heads in the sand, dismissing the whole thing as Harper has no hidden agenda?  Worse, that so-called hidden agenda is not hidden at all if anyone bothered to look. Below is a refresher on all his contempt for universal health care.

“We also support the exploration of alternative ways to deliver health care. Moving toward alternatives, including those provided by the private sector, is a natural development of our health care system.”

– Stephen Harper, Toronto Star, October 2002.

“What we clearly need is experimentation with market reforms and private delivery options [in health care].”

– Stephen Harper, then President of the NCC, 2001.

“I know this is a dangerous subject. My advisors say don’t talk about it, but the fact is sometimes provinces have allowed in the past few years, they’ve brought in private services covered by public health insurance… Why do I care and why do we care as a federal government how they’re managed? What we care about is whether people can access them. This is just an ideological agenda.”

– Conservative leader Stephen Harper at the leadership debate, June 15th 2004, conceding that he shouldn’t talk about his positive view of privatization of health care.

Also, Stevie’s support for American health care system, as he wrote on Dr. David Gratzer’s book jacket of Code Blue :

David Gratzer ‘proposes workable solution’ for ‘government-controlled health care monopoly, Canada needs Gratzer’s new prescription,’ said Prime Minister Stephen Harper about Mr. Gratzer’s recommendations for a form of private medical savings accounts popular in the U.S. in a review of his book Code Blue .

Got that?

As for the opposition parties, Liberals and NDP, why do we not hear them talking about maintaining universal health care so much?  If it is a given that most Canadians support universal health care, why are they so afraid to attack the Harpercons on this? We hear both the Liberals and the NDP talking of consumers’ protection and the dwindling middle-class, which is all fine and dandy, but a universal health care where no one is turned away due to lack of coin is essential to a strong middle-class.

I took a look at the Liberals’ resolutions , currently debated and will be voted on in this week-end’s policy convention in Montreal.  Sure enough, Resolution 153 maintains that a potential Liberal government would maintain our single payer health care system.  I have not had the time to pay attention to the Liberal Policy Convention, other than what the Twitter feed is saying, so I don’t know where they’re at with Resolution 153–whether it will be debated and voted on.

As for the NDP’s Policy book, dated April 17, 2013 ,  on page 12,  article 3.1, they also want our single-payer health care maintained along with other measures further enhancing it.

Again, all well and good, however, much to my chagrin, most do not bother to check the websites of political parties to find out what they really stand for or what their aspirations are.  Silence on this issue by both Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair, particularly after this budget, assuming they’ve (or their handlers for that matter) read page 217 of the Harpercon Economic Inaction Plan, is disconcerting.

I honestly hope that we, as Canadians, will get away from the big tv screen and stories from Tinseltown to actually start doing something; saying something–before it’s too late.

2 comments to Economic Inaction Plan 2014 — One Step Closer to Elimination of Universal Health Care

  • Kim

    This is a huge issue in BC, with a large geographic rural population and a constant influx of retirees from across Canada. They pay their taxes in whatever province they worked in all their lives and then move to BC to retire. Care homes are all being privatised, the union staff let go and then restaffed with lower paid people. They are ridiculously expensive for the decent ones.

    We also have to pay a regressive tax on healthcare, a flat rate regardless of income unless you are below $30,000 in income. 1,200 a year for two people in my family and the rate is set to increase. We also pay user fees to see optometrists, physio, chiro, massage. I think BC will be the test case for the elimination of health care coverage.

    Very good article Ck, thanks.

    Kim Reply:

    But we don’t tax the banks in this province. Not a penny, or, should I say dime?