Jun 072016

The Communist Party of Canada calls on all its members and friends to join the efforts of public health-care coalitions to defend and expand our public health-care system. Comrades in Ontario are urged to vote in the Ontario Health Care Coalition’s May 28 referendum which calls on the Ontario government to stop the cuts to hospital funding to our community hospitals so residents of Canada can get the health care they deserve when they need it.

Comrades in other provinces have supported, and should continue to support and expand, the efforts of similar coalitions in other provinces as governments such as Quebec, Newfoundland, British Columbia, Nova Scotia , and Saskatchewan attack the principles of public health care as they implement neo-liberal economic policies that attack all social services, including medicare.

For decades Canadians have considered our public healthcare system as an essential fabric of Canadian society. It has ranked as one of the highest priorities in each federal and provincial election since it was established, first in Saskatchewan and then across the country, in the 1960s.

Ever since it was established, however, special interests in Canada have fought to undermine it. The establishment of private clinics in Alberta, to give special medical care for those who could afford to jump the cue in the public system, led the federal government in 1984 to pass the Canada Health Act, which established the five principles of universality, comprehensive coverage, portability, accessibility and public administration. Provinces who failed to follow these five principles would have their federal transfer reduced by a comparable amount equal to the establishment of private health-care facilities.
Increasingly this threat has become meaningless to provincial governments as successive federal governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have reduced the amount of federal money transferred to the provinces. The 1995 Paul Martin budget, the budget designed to eliminate the federal deficit “come hell or high water”, abolished the Established Social Programmes which required that federal money for health, education and social services be spent in those areas. Provinces could spend the general transfer as they see fit.

Medicare was one of the areas neglected by provinces during the recession of the 1990s as they struggled to provide social services during the recession. Private think tanks and studies like the Kirby Senate Commission advocated the introduction of private health care because of the alleged inefficiencies of the public health care system. Reporters cried about long wait-times for needed medical services as the cost of health care grew beyond control. There was no mention of the high cost of drugs or the reduced public funding.

The federal government established the Romanow Commission which defended the principle of public medicare and advocated for more federal spending in that sphere. Negotiations with the provinces led to the National Health Accord in 2000, which guaranteed a 6% annual increase in allocations until 2013.

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper refused to negotiate a new Health Accord in December of 2013. Instead it said it would increase transfers by 6% for 3 years, and then by 3% in subsequent years. The result of these policies is that medicare is being destroyed by a thousand cuts. The adoption of neo-liberal economic policies by governments at all levels has created a funding crisis for our public hospitals. The refusal of governments to deal with the ever-increasing cost of drugs has worsened the desperate state of our health care system.

Our Party’s analysis of the first Liberal budget, in April of 2016, stated, “Medicare has been virtually by-passed in the recent federal budget, with transfers to provinces pegged at 3%; the same level as imposed by the Conservative government in 2013, and exactly half of the minimum requested and required by the provinces. Promises to renew the federal provincial health accord, providing stable funding for healthcare, are barely mentioned in the budget, leaving the door open for more privatization.”
The 38th Convention of the Communist Party of Canada reaffirms our 2015 federal election platform which calls for: the reversal of the attacks on our public healthcare services and medicare; the implementation of the Canada Health Care Act and its principles across the land; the expansion of medicare to include pharmacare, dental and eye care, hearing care, long-term care and home and continuing care, reproductive health care; and the nationalization of the pharmaceutical industry.