Canadian Health Coalition disappointed with budget

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Federal Budget 2016: what about health care? By Vassy Kapelos

When it comes to what Canadians care about, one thing keeps topping the list: their health.

In fact, in an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News before last week’s federal budget, Canadians ranked spending more on health care as their top priority out of 15 choices.

“People have concerns about health care, it’s a perennial problem in Canada,” Ipsos CEO Darrel Bricker said. “They look at government as being best able to solve that through spending.”

But the budget left health care advocates like Adrienne Silnicki, with the Canadian Health Coalition, wanting more.

“I thought, ‘OK, the Liberals have won. We’ll see strong federal leadership again,’” she said. “This budget shows that they’re just not interested.”

There is money in the budget for things like tackling men’s health, improving heart health for women and enhancing food safety.

But, it’s what’s not in the budget that’s raising a red flag.

During the election, the Liberals promised $3 billion over four years for home care. That money isn’t in the budget.
“We have seniors being kept in hospital beds simply because we do not have the resources to care for them in our communities,” NDP health critic Don Davies said in question period Thursday. “Why are Liberals abandoning their promise to invest in home care when this money is so badly needed?”

Health Minister Jane Philpott insisted the money is still on the table and she’s working towards an agreement with her provincial and territorial counterparts.

“We are working every day toward a new long-term agreement that will include a number of initiatives, including a $3-billion investment in home care,” she said. “We look forward to announcing that once the agreement has been undertaken.”

A spokesperson for Philpott told Global News work is being done to improve health services, including home care.
“It’s critical that we get this right,” Dave Clements wrote in an email. “We had a very productive first meeting in January with health ministers and will be meeting again in the coming months. In the meantime, discussions continue at the departmental level.”

But critics are also disappointed the budget didn’t say more about a new health accord. Liberals pledged to negotiate one with provinces, and there’s mention of that in the budget; but, there’s no money set aside for it.

The budget also doesn’t reverse cuts to federal transfers planned under the Harper government.

The Tories changed the formula for health care money Ottawa sends provinces. The new formula could mean as much as $36 billion less for provinces over the next decade.

“If there isn’t money in there, we’re not going to get that strong health accord that people desperately need,” Silnicki said.

Philpott wasn’t available for an interview Monday, but Clements said the budget is very good for the health and well-being of Canadians, pointing out that growing the middle class and lifting Canadians out of poverty is vital to improving their health.

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