The federal budget tabled March 19 had $1.4 billion for health care:
-$400 million for Canada Health Infoway to support development of EHR to help reduce wait times
-$612 million to support jurisdictions that have made commitments to implement patient wait time guarantees
-$300 million over 3 years in per capita funding for vaccination to prevent cervical cancer
-$22 million to CIHI to provide timely, accurate and comparable health information to support health care delivery
-$2 million for Medic Alert bracelets for children suffering from several serious diseases (my son keeps losing his…can he have one too?)
-$10 million over two years and $15 million a year thereafter to establish the Canadian Mental Health Commission
Dr. Collin MacMillan, CMA President, has said the money set aside to reduce wait times is “not enough”. He said, “We’ve got to move towards self-sufficiency in training Canadian doctors and nurses in this country to practice and serve the future and current needs of our population as we see it.”
Jack M. Mintz, Professor of Business Economics, J.L. Rotman School of Management, U of T, states that overall, the 2007 budget tax agenda has no plan to address the productivity and demographic challenges facing the Canadian economy over the long term. He predicts that federal program spending will continue to inch up as a share of GDP over the next two years, and actual spending will likely be much higher than planned.
It is a little surprising that this budget came from the Conservatives given the trend that they are the usual party to come to power after excessive spending by the NDP or Liberals and after the electorate realizes that taxes are rising because of excessive spending. Putting a “chicken in every pot” will help satisfy political needs however, but won’t do much for long term viability of our health care system.
The $612 million is for provinces that commit to a patient wait time guarantee in one of five priority areas by the end of next WEEK. Meanwhile,Tony Clement is meeting with individual provinces to negotiate separate deals with respect to funds, personnel and other resources necessary to develop a national wait- times guarantee. He did not predict how many provinces will sign up for the money from the fund. But they’ve got a week. I guess they should have seen this coming.
Does the budget address fiscal imbalance? It does for some provinces like Quebec, but for Saskatchewan which sees its equalization payment reduced from $800 million to $226 million, to zero in 2008-09, maybe not. No surprise then that Saskatchewan Health Minister Len Taylor is alleged to be resisting wait time guarantees by Tony Clement……you need money at the provincial level to reduce wait times after all and with less equalization payments Saskatchewan may have to wait on its wait times guarantees. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
No real long term solutions, just more spending for health care. Which brings me to the question: If the Conservatives don’t hold the line on spending, who will? How high can taxes go?
As Jack Mintz says in his op-ed March 21 titled “Mess in the Making”, “At this rate, we will need another major tax reform in a few years.”
As always, I am interested in your take on this and opposing opinions are always welcome.