At the end of November, Roy Romanow released the final report of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. The major recommendations of the report call for the federal government to:
- Increase health spending by $15 billion by 2006;
- Introduce a limited pharmacare program to cover high-priced drug treatments;
- Improve Aboriginal health;
- Create a Health Council of Canada to measure and track the performance of the health care system;
- Broaden the Canada Health Act to cover home care services; and
- Ban extra billing on diagnostic services such as MRIs.
The report explicitly rejected calls for more privatization and commercialization of health care. Instead it called on the government to provide an additional $15 billion for health care over the next four years, including $3.5 billion in the next budget. Recent estimates place the federal budget surplus at $20 billion for the coming year.
Most important, the report called for a change in the way Ottawa funds medicare. Similar to its funding of post-secondary education, the federal government is contributing less today to health care than it did in the early 1990s. Ottawa has reduced its deficit while at the same time putting in place generous tax cuts by slashing funding for health and post-secondary education. Romanow argued the federal government was paying less than it should. This is exactly the view of the Canadian public.
In public opinion polling commissioned by CAUT, we consistently find there is a strong perception across the country that both provincial and federal governments have done a poor job in assuring post-secondary education is affordable and accessible to all Canadians and that the federal government should improve access to post-secondary education by increasing funding to universities and colleges or by providing needs-based grants to students.
CAUT, in its submission to Romanow’s commission, made a key recommendation that the federal government had to put in place a new funding arrangement for both health and education that provided greater stability and predictability in transfers from Ottawa to the provincial governments, along with mechanisms for transparency and accountability for the expenditures of those funds on the part of the provinces. As Romanow argued in his report, “Money must buy change, not more of the same.”
Romanow agreed with CAUT’s position in wanting the federal government to change the way it transfers money to the provinces in support of health care, post-secondary education and social services. Currently, Ottawa provides cash funding for these services to the provinces in one lump sum under the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) that provides no accountability over how the funds are spent.
The report recommends Ottawa scrap the CHST and create a separate fund for health care that is transparent and that provides stable funding.
The elimination of the CHST is critical, not only for health care, but for post-secondary education as well. The creation of a separate funding mechanism for health care would mean the federal government would have to develop a separate funding mechanism for post-secondary education.
CAUT has proposed a Canada Post-Secondary Education Act that would parallel the existing Canada Health Act and the changes to that act proposed in the Romanow report. There is growing support among politicians for the Post-Secondary Education Act.
The Romanow report also calls for the creation of four new Centres for Health Innovation to focus on rural and remote health, health human resources, health promotion and pharmaceutical policy. Also proposed is the establishment of a National Drug Agency to evaluate new drugs and re-evaluate existing ones. Romanow’s report is a comprehensive vision for improving our health care system, and Ottawa needs to act quickly to implement the recommendations.
CAUT Council, at its November meeting, passed the following resolution: “That CAUT commit to the fight to preserve and enhance Medicare and health care insurance coverage for all Canadians, by assisting the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canada Health Coalition and other national organizations in their national campaigns.”
Critical decisions are now being made about medicare by both the federal cabinet and provincial health ministers. I would urge you to support implementing the Romanow report by signing the online petition sponsored by the Canadian Health Coalition that can be found at http://www.petitiononline.com/romanow.
It is time for the federal and provincial governments to stop their wrangling over health care and post-secondary education and to listen to the Canadian people. The funds that pay for health and education are neither federal nor provincial funds. They are our tax dollars and the vast majority of Canadians want these funds spent on social programs that define the distinctiveness of being Canadian.