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Sunday, February 27, 2011

16 billion for bomber jets…no money for health care

Stephen Harper’s federal budget bad for your health

This is an old post that appeared in the Georgia Straight Paper but I think it is still very relevant with a new budget about to be passed.


By Michael Byers,
To quote Ed the Sock: “If you don’t have anything good to say, say it often.”
This might explain why the word tax appears more than 1,000 times in last month’s federal budget, while overstretched and out-of-work Canadians receive little meaningful support.
In fact, Stephen Harper’s budget calls for more than $20 billion in “new tax relief”, including “reducing corporate income taxes so that Canada will have the lowest statutory corporate tax rate in the G7 by 2012.”
Responsible governments pay for necessities first. And the budget—apart from promising $500 million to digitize health records—does nothing to improve the quality of our lives through readily accessible, quality health care.
South of the border, Americans are learning the hard way about the long-term costs of neglecting health care.
Last December, after eight years of deep-reaching tax cuts, the congressional budget office reported: “The rising costs of health care and health insurance pose a serious threat to the future fiscal condition of the United States.” It concluded that without government action, spending on health care would increase to 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2025, up from 16 percent in 2007.
A December 18 New York Times article on the proposed U.S. stimulus package underscored the scale of the problem: “About a fifth of the [up to $1 trillion] Obama package could go toward health care…The biggest piece would be up to $100 billion to subsidize the states’ growing Medicaid caseloads of the poor.”
Unfortunately, Canada is on the same trajectory.
From 1993 to 2005, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin systematically underfunded our public-health-care system. The resulting declines in service created a market for private care where none existed before. Private, for-profit clinics like Vancouver’s Cambie Surgery Centre emerged and began drawing much-needed nurses and doctors away from the public system.
Now, with Liberal backing, the Harper government is pushing us closer to the health-care brink. And neither party is listening to Canadians.
A January 14 Nanos poll asked Canadians how important it was for the government to increase investment in public services such as health care and education during an economic downturn. Of those who responded, 70 percent ranked it important (25.3 percent) or very important (44.5 percent). Nine percent felt it was unimportant.
These results prompted James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees (which commissioned the poll) to say in a release: “It’s not all about tax cuts and bailouts in the minds of Canadians. It’s about people, jobs, and protecting our social safety net during tough times.”
Investments in health care would constitute an economic stimulus, creating jobs while protecting those without employment. As Kathleen Connors, chair of the Canadian Health Coalition, pointed out in a January 13 release: “More than one in 10 Canadians work in this third-largest sector of the economy, and our public health-care system protects Canadians from one of the most devastating consequences of economic downturn in the United States, the loss of health care.”
Connors also opposed the turn toward private health care, noting that “Privatized, for-profit health care has become an increasingly serious threat that forces people to pay more… and receive less.”
In the United States, a family of four lucky enough to have access to an employer-supported health plan pays more than $12,000 per year for coverage. Many millions of less fortunate Americans are uninsured. It’s a terrible model to emulate, and yet the Canadian Independent Medical Clinics Association has just launched a suit in B.C. Supreme Court asking to have patient-access restrictions at their private, for-profit clinics struck down.
The clinics—led by the ubiquitous Dr. Brian Day—base their argument on a 2005 Canadian Supreme Court judgment known as Chaoulli v. Québec (Attorney General). That court held that a Quebec ban on private insurance for medically necessary services violated the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms because long wait times in the public system endangered life and personal security.
The argument would fail if the public system were adequately funded.
Adequate funding would also save money by creating a healthier, happier, more productive population. The market might be good at some short-term decisions, but—as the economic crisis has demonstrated—it cannot be trusted with long-term public policy. Privatizing health care divides societies into those who can and cannot pay. It undermines communities by promoting selfishness and inequality.
Nobody should have to choose between putting food on the table and accessing quality, timely health care. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Harper’s tax cuts are the wrong prescription for Canada. Let’s build up the country instead of running it down.

Harper's Liberal approach to health care

Scott Stinson, National Post · Friday, Dec. 17, 2010
The waning days of a Parliamentary session that is about to break for six weeks seems an odd time for an opposition party to adopt a new message. But there were the federal Liberals this week, once again giving conventional wisdom the finger.
A trio of MPs delivered speeches on the new subject on Tuesday, then on Wednesday leader Michael Ignatieff used it as his first line of attack on Stephen Harper in Question Period.
"Mr. Speaker, Canadians wait for hours in hospital emergency rooms and patients languish in the hallways. The Canadian health system needs help, but the government has ignored the issue for four or five years," he said. "How can [the Prime Minister] expect Canadians to trust his government to protect our public healthcare system?"
Health care? Really?
Mr. Harper responded, of course, that the Conservative government loves the healthcare system to bits (I'm paraphrasing here) and that it was the dastardly Liberals who cut transfers to provinces back in the dark days of the Chretien era.
Mr. Ignatieff was undaunted. The federal-provincial accords signed in 2004 (under the Liberals) that increase transfers to provinces by 6% a year in order to fund health care run out in 2014, he noted. The government has not committed a penny of new money beyond that, he said. "How can Canadians trust the government to defend public health?" he said.
This is a puzzling strategy. Mr. Ignatieff's own question acknowledges that the government is locked into four more years of increasing health funding. Is there really much to be gained by banging on about what the Tories plan to do about 2015? At our present rate, we could easily have two elections between now and then. Three, even.
But aside from trying to give urgency to a problem that's barely on the horizon, what's odd about the sudden Liberal focus on health care is that it's a subject on which the government's approach has been decidedly Liberal.
"The Prime Minister is heard to muse about how he would like to get rid of the Canada Health Act," Mr. Ignatieff said on Wednesday. But Mr. Harper has made no such musings since he became leader of the federal Conservatives. Here's what he told my colleague John Ivison during the last election: "I support innovation within the confines of the Canada Health Act -- that's the position of all provincial governments. We particularly support innovation in the delivery of service but in the end we believe there must be a public insurance system."
This does not sound like a call for revolution.
Whether it was MP Maxime Bernier's call for the end of the Canada Health Transfer, former Alberta premier Ralph Klein's suggestion that the government must back away from a "strict interpretation" of the Canada Health Act, or any number of studies from places as diverse as the Fraser Institute and the OECD that say Canada needs to change the present single-payer public system, the Harper government has refused to take the bait. Most significantly, when Quebec announced plans in the spring to introduce a $25 user-fee, the federal health ministry refused to take a position, saying it needed to study the proposal. That study became moot when Quebec backed down in September.
All the evidence suggests the Tories want no part of serious discussions about health-care reform, presumably because it remains one of those things that polite Canadians just do not talk about.
I was in an editorial board meeting last year with the then-president of the Canadian Medical Association, who discussed at length the need for Canada to consider the example of Europe, where private delivery of public care is widely accepted. Robert Ouellet was kicking off a campaign to bang the drum about the importance of change. It went nowhere, even with a Conservative government in Ottawa.
If Stephen Harper was interested changing the public health system, why would he have passed up a number of opportunities to at least begin to walk down that road?
The historian Michael Bliss wrote last month a pretty biting criticism of Canada's infatuation with the present system.
"Despite the system's popularity and iconic status; despite the belief by many Canadian health experts that the Canada Health Act system ... is the best way to deliver modern health care; and despite years of nationalist proclamation that Canadian health insurance ought to be a model to the world (and especially to the United States), no [other] country has adopted the Canadian model," he wrote.
But you'll only hear arguments like this from historians and think-tank researchers these days. Not from politicians, for whom healthcare reform remains the issue that dare not speak its name.

16 billion for bomber jets…no money for health care, child care and seniors pensions

 16 billion for bomber jets, $1 billion for a fake lake and photo opportunities, but no new money for health care, child care and seniors pensions
The Harper government recently announced that they will be spending 16 billion of your tax dollars on C-35 fighter jets.
This, one of the biggest military equipment purchases in recent years comes on the tail of the recent budget where the Conservatives decided to cut funding to women’s groups and give tax breaks to their friends in the polluting tar sands big oil companies.
The purchase of these fighter jets is just the latest in Harper’s unfortunate pattern of not consulting Canadians or Parliament before making a major decision. To heap more insult onto our democracy wounds, the multi-billion dollar contract wasn’t even tendered.
Experts have pointed out that these fighter jets are ineffective against the threat our Canadian soldiers are facing in Afghanistan (isn’t it time for us to leave anyway?) Surely there are much better ways to invest our money.
On August 29, during Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday, local residents stopped by to share their ideas on how the government should invest our $16 billion. People of all ages wrote and drew their messages on the canvass (link to a photo) which I will deliver to the Harper government in Ottawa.
For a link to my statement in the House on this issue please click here:

Abbotsford NDP Candidate David Murray with Ed Broadbent at Halifax convention
email :
twitter: davidmurray4ndp



  1. #
    Bruce Banman So keeping in mind that 45 cents out of every tax dollar in BC goes to health care and that number is expected to rise dramatically as the boomers get older, how much is enough David? 50 cents, 70 cents...90? Hey here's an idea, how about we toss that Federal liberal and NDP ideal that everyone doesn't have to pay to go see a Dr, I'm happy to pay a user fee. provided the poor are looked after. Helathcare isn't free time to realise, we have limits to what we can do, and we can't live forever. Life is a terminal dissease. All the money can't go to heathcare, the Russians and others are wanting, planting flags on the artic ocean floor, basically trying to steal what we have long said was ours. You propose what exactly....perhaps we can use sling shots?
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Rod Smelser User fees simply adds more money to that 45% of general taxes and MSP premiums.
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading...
    Elizabeth Rosenau Bruce: the percentage of money going to healthcare is going up because spending in other areas is declining. Also: a huge part of the budget goes to pharmaceuticals which are staggeringly overpriced. We need to find ways of dealing with the pharmaceutical mafia.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 2 peopleLoading...
    Rod Smelser Elizabeth, ... good point about that percentage of a declining whole!
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading...
    Bruce Banman Respectuflly Elizabeth, the reason health care is going up is due to the rising age in demographics. According to what I've heard, aprox 80% of the money the system will spend on you is during your last year of life,currently those above 65 account for about 17% of the population and use about 25% of the medical dollars, that 17% is expected to continue to rise untill it reaches around 28% of the population, which in turn will means those over 65 will require about 32% of the budget.
    7 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Terry Stobbart I find that tiered health care never works for the poor. We need to curtail un neccessary visits to the emergency rooms and doctors when people have a cold or sniffles and want an immediate fix. We are a nation of I want to be well immediately no matter the cost. There are line ups at clinics and doctors offices and emergencies that are NOT necessary. Poor people often don't go to the doctor anyways because the prescriptions are out of their reach. It is the middle class and the rich that want that immediate fix. Old fashioned sleep, vitamin C and chicken soup have gone by the wayside. Seems rather simplistic I know Bruce, but sometimes the simple fixes are the ones we need to look at first. And also, if we address the poor and the homelessness, the costs are less if they are housed instead of using up the other resources out there - hospitals, police, etc...For every dollar spent on children before the age of 7, saves $7 per person when they are teenagers, getting into there are the stats out there for politicians to use...but if they just keep giving themselves raises and ignoring what is there in front of their faces, no one gets ahead. And the money just keeps getting spent...administration costs in all departments are outrageous.

  2. More posts on the subject:
    Terry Stobbart
    You need to stop insulting me. I am telling you what the reality is for people...You choose to either not believe me, nor understand me. I do not get those visits per year because those medical professionals have chosen to either opt out ...of medical or add extra fees to meet their demands for more money that the government would not meet. And saying this, doesn't mean I approve of those demands either. You assume a lot about me, and I am telling you that my reality is just what I have explained. You do not get it because (perhaps in error) I am assuming that you have never lived it. Whatever. Serious discussion between two or more people is best between two or more people that give each other respect. Your condescending attitude and comments clearly indicate that you do not respect nor get what I am talking about. If the governments in power had any clear indication of what preventative action is, we wouldn't be facing this kind of situation. I do feel that we are probably on the same wavelength about most of the issues you have brought up but you have insulted me enough to disclude any serious discussion. You tell me where the offices are that provide 10 visits a year without adding on any other fees. This is not a reality for people today.See More

  3. Bruce Banman
    If you take my comments as insulting I apologise. Yes i've been broke in my life, but I've never gone hungry, unlike alot of the world, so I'm thankful. When you are broke, it becomes very difficult to see things other than where you are, y...our realility is not what the vast majority of Canadians experince. You got caught in phase one, of many yet to come, reductions to hit the medical system, personally my profession took a huge hit, at least in BC. But your realility is not what most of us can afford. Most Canadians are more than willing to chip in and participate in the cost of their care, if it helps protect the ideals we hold dear, healthcare for all, which in turn will save it for lower income folks like you. Why you find that so disturbing is beyond me. Furthermore, when I did start talking about userfees as an option, you go off topic about the rich being placed ahead of you, implying that was part of what I said when it wasn't. Perhaps you didn't mean to put words in my mouth but that's how I took it. I said over and over we need to protect the poor, you would have none of it, dissmised what I said totaly, only to push the disscusion off topic in some other direction. Compared to most of the world Canada has nothing to apologise for with reagards to healthcare, could it be better sure. It won't improve if you are not capable, or not willing to listen to objective ideas from someone that actually serves in the system. Does that mean I'm right,I've got the only solution, not at all, but to cling to ideals, not be open to change as the system gets ready to implode sure as heck doesn't make any sense to me, and with that....I'm done.See More

    Terry Stobbart
    We will have to each do our part, from each of our perspectives. I don't have the solutions either, but all Canadians need to step up and be a part of the solution. I don't know that will ever happen in my time. Will the system as we hav...e it last? No. I agree with you. I did not intend to get "off topic", but I don't see that it is. I am merely saying what I see happening. Richer people can afford to pay for services, thus jumping the waiting list. Does it put more money into our health system and help it? I don't know, but what I do see, is that money is the key. I don't presume to know the answers or be right, but I do stick to my convictions that user fees as you propose, could very well be the straw that breaks the camels back...or it could save it as you suggest. Look at what happened when the HST came into place. Would a similar reaction happen to user fees? Gives pause to thought. I don't know what it was like to be hit by the cutbacks from your perspective, granted. But we all need to pitch in and voice our concerns, so that a realistic solution happens. Talking to people, getting them to voice their concerns and hearing what people have to say from all perspectives has to happen by the politicians. We do have a great country, I am grateful that if I have to be poor, that it is here and not any other country. It is what it is.