Chair Mary Boyd calls battle to save Canada's cherished public health-care system 'a fight for our lives'
© Guardian file photo
Members of the P.E.I. Health Coalition Thursday gathered to urge the federal government to negotiate a new health accord with provincial and territorial governments.
Coalition chairwoman Mary Boyd was joined by fellow members Leo Broderick, vice-chair of the Council of Canadians, Lori MacKay, president of the P.E.I. division of CUPE, Carl Pursey, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Labour, and Mary MacNeil, regional representative of PSAC.
For the most part, the group read from the Canadian Health Coalition's script that attacks Stephen Harper's government for refusing to negotiate another accord.
Ottawa unilaterally announced in December 2011 a major cut to the Canada Health Transfer of $36 billion over 10 years by lowering the annual escalator from six per cent to three per cent beginning in 2017.
In addition, the equalization portion of the CHT will be eliminated in 2014, which will reduce transfers by another $16.5 billion over the next five years, according to the Canadian Health Coalition material.
Boyd echoed the concerns of the national coalition that states unless federal funding is stable and adequate, the country's cherished public health-care system is in danger.
"It's going to be a fight for our lives when you think of it because it is the fight to save the greatest social program we have in the country - the one that best represents the values of Canadians that we want everybody to be covered, that the poorest person can walk into a doctor's office or a hospital with dignity and receive the same care that the richest person receives,'' says Boyd.
She says P.E.I. does not size up well with today with the rest of the country when it comes to the level of health care provided as well as access to health care.
"Oh well we're struggling,'' she says.
"We don't have a big budget for health care because we can't afford it. We depend so much on the federal money for our health-care system.''
And the fiscal situation for P.E.I., notes MacKay, will only worsen when the federal government eliminates the equalization portion of the Canada Health Transfer next year.
"The math is simple,'' she says.
"If the federal Conservatives are going to decrease their funding increases by half but health-care costs are rising at the same rate, transfers to the provinces will cover less - a download on the province to the tune of $144 million for P.E.I.''
Broderick says Harper's government has dismantled more than 100 serious social programs since he came to power, affecting every group from Indigenous women to refugees.
He fears medicare will be next to fall under the Tories.
"We believe that the Harper agenda is building an unjust society where free market principles reign, where business values are the ones that have been adopted by the federal government and all of these trump social programs and building communities,'' says Broderick.
"We believe the federal government must negotiate new health care with the provinces and territories before March 31 or Canadians will see the end of a cohesive national health-care system.''
The members of the P.E.I. Health Coalition endorsed their national coalition's call on the federal government to negotiate a new 10-year Health Accord with provincial and territorial governments to secure the health-care needs of all Canadians.
The accord would include:
> A continuing care plan that integrates home, facility-based long-term, respite and palliative care;
> A universal public drug plan that provides equitable access to safe and appropriate medication;
> Adequate and stable federal funding including a six per cent escalator.