CBC News Federal Election
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Leaders

Health


Canadian healtcare
   

Well, Prime Minister, this is the biggie. Polls have repeatedly shown that health care is a top-priority issue for Canadians. It is a huge line in any budget, federal or provincial. For most provinces, health-care spending makes up between 30 and 40 per cent of total government expenditures. Canadians spent more than $121 billion on health care last year. Nearly $85 billion of that was public money.

But here's the thing: polls also show that Canadians are unhappy with the state of the health-care system. They say they are waiting too long for treatment, and some can't even find a family doctor to begin with. Spending on health increases by about seven per cent a year, but waiting times to see specialists are getting longer.

     CBC LINK: Canada's health care system

Grade five and six students from Ottawa talk about the importance of promises.
 - runs 3:44AUDIO
Mike Hornbrook looks at the issue of health care

(Runs 3:58)

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Polling firm Ekos reports it's not that Canadians think health care is too expensive; they just don't think the money is being well spent. The 2002 Romanow report on health care called for more money, but also said governments needed to rethink how the money was being spent. An earlier report for Alberta, the Mazankowski report, came to much the same conclusion.

So what are your options? We're glad you asked.

  • Work with what already exists. Add more money, and consider changes to the delivery of health care. One possible change that has been tried in Ontario is encouraging family doctors to form networks to provide 24-hour care to patients, so they won't feel the need to doctor-shop or visit emergency rooms.
  • A two-tier system. This would mean allowing patients to pay for faster service, or to go to private clinics for basic health care. Alberta has suggested it would like to try some form of private care.
  • A bit of both. Keep the current system, but de-list certain services, or charge a fee that would discourage people from visiting the doctor unless absolutely necessary.

(Please note, Prime Minister, these are not necessarily exhaustive. If you come up with a plan of your own, feel free to give it a try.)

But none of this is to suggest that more money wouldn't help. The Romanow report said the federal government was picking up the tab for 16 per cent of health-care spending. The report recommended Ottawa's share should be 25 per cent. It also suggested an immediate cash infusion.

As I'm sure you're aware, the new health council will monitor the state of health care in Canada, but your government isn't required to act on its recommendations. Also, Alberta and Quebec have opted out of the council, and Alberta's premier has at times dropped hints about 'opting out' of the Canada Health Act.

It might take some strong medicine, but a prime minister with a new mandate should feel more than equal to administering it.


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