Ontario election: Vote Compass users back tax hike to boost health care

All three major party leaders in Ontario say changes need to be made to the province’s health-care system, but a coalition of health-care advocates is calling the parties' health policies "shallow." What do Vote Compass users say about the future of Ontario's health system?

Respondents split on choice between private and public care

Vote Compass users were almost equally split on whether they should have a choice between private and public health care. (iStock)

The Ontario Health Coalition is not impressed with any of the province's political parties when it comes to health care.

"We reviewed the party platforms and I have to say, I’ve been doing this for 14 years and the platforms this year were the most perfunctory and shallow I’ve ever seen," the coalition's executive director, Natalie Mehra, said Tuesday. "There isn’t a lot of details in the platforms."

The OHC is comprised of local health groups, health professionals, unions, women's groups and other organizations in favour of a publicly-funded, publicly-administered health-care system.

All three major party leaders in Ontario say changes need to be made to the province’s health-care system.

They differ on which areas need tweaking, support or overhaul. From emergency room wait times to home care to Local Health Integration Networks, they all have promised changes and solutions in the health-care system.

The parties have long been mostly aligned on the maintenance single-tier system, though the last Progressive Conservative government did allow the privatization of some services.

This time around, the PCs vow to scrap the "bureaucratic" Local Health Integration Networks and funnel that money to front-line workers, like nurses. The Tories have also promised to expand long-term care availability and at-home health care.

The Liberals want to spend $11.4 billion on expanding and improving hospitals over a decade. They also want to expand home, community and supported home care for 46,000 more seniors.

The NDP has pledged to cut emergency room wait times in half and add 250 more nurse practitioners to staff emergency wards. An NDP government would also open 50 new 24-hour family health clinics.

According to Mehra, Ontario has the fewest number hospital beds in the country and the most overcrowded hospitals in Canada. She says 21,800 people are waiting for long-term care beds.

So what do voters want?

A new poll by Nanos Research for the Ontario Medical Association found two-thirds of Ontarians say that a provincial party with a strong platform on health care would have an impact on their likely vote for a party.

When asked if a provincial party had strong platform on health care would you be more likely, less likely, or would it have no impact on your likelihood to vote for that party, 68 per cent said more likely.

The poll surveyed 500 representative Ontarians randomly on landlines and cellphones between May 22 and 26, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The OMA represents the province's doctors.

Vote Compass users views

According to CBC's Vote Compass, more than half of respondents want the government to spend money on health care, even if it means raising taxes.

When asked if health-care funding “should be increased, even if it meant higher taxes,”  54 per cent agreed.

Chart: Government should increase funding for health care, even if it means higher taxes. (Mobile users can view the chart here)

While privatizing the sale of beer and liquor in Ontario had been debated off and on prior to the election campaign, none of the leaders has mentioned private health care as an option.

However, it seems Vote Compass respondents are split on whether Ontario residents should have the choice to pay for health care.

Forty-four per cent of respondents agree that people should have the choice to receive private or public health care. Forty-two per cent disagree. Thirteen per cent of respondents said they were “neutral” on the matter.

But when it comes to political affiliation, 64 per cent of those who identified themselves as Progressive Conservative supporters agree they should have the choice to receive private or public health care. On the other end of the spectrum, 52 per cent of those who called themselves NDP supporters disagree.

The last Conservative government approved some privatization of MRI and CAT scan clinics.

"There have been improvements in Ontario's health-care system," Mehra said. "The number of MRIs has increased. Wait time management has improved. There has been a big upsurge in hip, knee and cataract surgeries in the province."

Mehra also noted that access to primary care physicians has improved in recent years and is expected to improve further with the graduation of more family doctors in coming years.

Chart: People should have the choice to receive private or public health care. (Mobile users can view the chart here)

While Vote Compass users were almost equally split on whether they should have a choice between private and public health care, it wasn't as close when respondents were asked if they should be able to pay for faster access to health care.

Fifty per cent agreed that “people should be able to pay for faster access to medical treatment," while 37 per cent did not.

In March, Health Minister Deb Matthews said she was going to look into any "unethical" practices to protect Ontario's single-tier public health-care system.

She made the statement after the Ontario Health Coalition alleged several private clinics in Ontario were misleading patients and billing them for medically unnecessary services.

According to the Canadian Press, a "significant" number of clinics contacted by the Ontario Health Coalition were charging patients extra fees on top of billing the Ontario Health Insurance Plan for necessary procedures, such as colonoscopies, the group said.

Chart: People should be able to pay for faster access to medical treatment. (Mobile users can view the chart here)

The Vote Compass findings are based on 52,224 respondents between May 7 and June 1, 2014. Though Vote Compass is not a poll, respondent data are weighted using the latest population estimates from Statistics Canada to approximate a representative sample of the Ontario population.

Developed by a team of political scientists from Vox Pop Labs, Vote Compass is an educational tool offered exclusively in Canada for CBC News.

Tonight's Ontario leaders debate 

The leaders' debate, hosted by journalist Steve Paikin, begins at 6:30 p.m. ET and runs until 8 p.m. ET. 

  • Watch it live on CBC News Network and CBC Television. 
  • Listen live on CBC Radio One (Ontario only). 
  • Watch livestreaming video online and take part in our live blog at cbc.ca/ontariovotes
  • Get a debate wrap up and analysis on CBC Television News at 11 and online at cbc.ca/ontariovotes.
  • Rate the leaders performance after the debate at cbc.ca/votecompass


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