There is a saying. ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’. Newfoundland and Labrador’s health crisis is real. Sadly, it is a daily news event. It is not unique as stories dominate media of problems in heath care nation-wide.
Canadians struggle to find family doctors. Canadians are being forced to wait in over crowded emergency rooms, whether in BC, PQ or NL. This gloomy picture persists as horror stories surface of increases in the number of emergency room visits by young children with respiratory illness, as hospitals scramble to address stressors on ICU over-capacity and frequent staffing shortages. Tragically, Alberta has reported its first influenza-related deaths of the season, including the death of a child.
Provincial reaction has been focused on a need for new federal money for health care. This demand has been directed towards Ottawa for increases in federal dollars to boost provincial health care budgets. Currently Ottawa provides $45 billion annually to support the provincial health care efforts. The provinces are asking Ottawa for $73 billion.
Ottawa’s reaction to increasing the Canada Health Transfer funding has not been well received by the provinces. Prime Minister Trudeau, in defending his government’s stand on ‘no new dollars’, speaks of transparency and accountability.
Where does Ottawa’s money go? What evidence suggests that more funding will result in better health outcomes for Canadians? “In the simplest of terms, it boils down to the provinces wanting to talk money before committing to results, while Ottawa wants to talk results before committing to money.” (M. Crawley, CBC News, Nov 13/22)
Health care is a provincial responsibility. Ottawa has no control on how provinces spend federal money in their daily health care plans. Ottawa fears that funding does not go where it should be used. In addition, there is a call by Ottawa for provinces to raise funding in their own health care budgets through measures such as increasing provincial taxes on the rich before looking to Ottawa with ‘cap in hand’.
Perhaps Ottawa’s suggestion to increase taxes on rich corporations may be justified. For example, BMO’s net income for the latest quarter is at $1.3 billion, while the Bank of Nova Scotia was in at $2.59 billion. And it was not only the banks doing well. As Canadians face provincial skyrocketing fuel prices, Shell has posted profits of $11.5 billion.
Prime Minister Trudeau, when questioned on Ottawa’s hesitation to increase federal funding said as much. ”Provincial governments say they don’t have any more money to invest in health care and therefore they need money from the federal government, while at the same time they turn around and give tax breaks to the wealthiest.” (M Crawley, CBC News, Nov 13/22)
No finer example of tax breaks can be given than a headline out of New Brunswick that outlined Irving Oil being given tax breaks from the province and municipal leaders while posting profits of $250 million. (J. Poitras & F. Zalac, CBC News, Nov. 14/22)
Trudeau is also critical when pointing out how provinces say there is no new money for health care, yet mails cash to individuals in lump sum payments, as many provinces have done, to combat cost of living increases, higher costs at the store front level for essentials such as food, heating costs and housing. Basically, Trudeau feels provinces are not in a money crunch if it has money to give away.
Meanwhile nothing really seems to change. Talks held in Vancouver involving the federal health minister and provincial counterparts during the first week in November with the provinces seeking more money went nowhere. Now thousands of Canadians wait across the country for critical care, overwhelming a system crumbling under such demand. Exasperating the stress is the departure of record numbers of health care professionals who, rather than continue in a burn out situation, have instead thrown in the towel.
As Canadians continue to suffer within a crumbling national health care system, political leadership at both levels cannot come to an agreement on best steps forward. Then again, what is new in federal-provincial relations?
‘The more things change the more they stay the same’.
The sad reality is that countless Canadians must continue to navigate through a broken health care system, resulting in tragic outcomes, while both federal and provincial politicians fill the airwaves with spin doctor rhetoric.
Channel-Port aux Basques