Public health care is precious, we must defend it


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Our public health-care system is facing a serious threat. A threat posed by provincial governments pushing for-profit care as a solution to the problems facing the system, and by a threat posed by a federal government that is failing to put a stop to this privatization.

There’s no denying that our health-care system is in crisis, as years of cuts and underfunding have left the system hanging by a thread. Hospitals are overflowing and staff are being run off their feet. Instead of giving hospitals the resources they need to reduce wait times and address a huge surgical backlog, Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government only increased health care funding by 1.6 per cent in its 2022 budget, far below the rate of inflation.

For its part, the federal Liberal government has failed to increase the size of Canada Health Transfer (CHT), even during the COVID-19 pandemic. It maintained the Harper era cuts to the CHT and has so far refused to increase it.

Instead of addressing the crisis by investing in the public system, several provincial governments have a different plan – bring in more private, for-profit care. In the last throne speech, the Manitoba government announced that it would increase private partnerships in health care. In January 2023, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced plans to fund private, for-profit clinics and surgeries. Far from reducing wait times, these plans will take health-care workers away from the public system. They will benefit the CEOs and shareholders of the private companies, not patients and health-care workers.

The Canada Health Act enshrines five principles that are requirements for provinces to receive federal funding – public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility. The Act allows the federal government to withhold funding if one or more of these principles are violated. The Liberal government should be ready to enforce the Canada Health Act to defend public, universal health care, but that’s not what we’re hearing from the Prime Minister. I was deeply concerned that when asked about Doug Ford’s plans for more for-profit care, Prime Minister Trudeau described them as “innovation”.

Health care is a human right, not a privilege. I’m proud to belong to the party of Tommy Douglas, the father of Medicare, who paved the way for health care in this country to be available free at the point of service for all. My NDP colleagues and I will work to protect this precious right that our grandmothers and grandfathers fought so hard to win.

Leah Gazan

Leah Gazan
Winnipeg Centre constituency report

Leah Gazan is the NDP Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre.

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