Is decreasing a funding increase the same thing as a cut?
North Island–Powell River Conservative candidate Laura Smith doesn’t think so.
The current Conservative government has said that, beginning in 2017, they will reduce the increase the provinces see in their healthcare funding each year in transfers from the federal government.
“If elected, will you pledge to restore the $36-billion cut to healthcare funding put in by this present government?” was one of the questions from the floor at the recent All Candidates Meeting at the Campbell River Seniors’ Centre, and was the one question of the day greeted by applause from the crowd even before the candidates had a chance to address it.
“Yes we will,” replied NDP candidate Rachel Blaney simply.
Blaney was first to speak on the subject, and said a properly funded healthcare system will be one of an NDP government’s top priorities, adding that the NDP is also concerned about getting more doctors into remote and smaller communities around the country to address that gap in the healthcare system.
Green Party candidate Brenda Sayers said her party has also committed to reversing the proposed cuts being made by the Conservatives, adding, “we will also restore the national health accord that was negotiated between the provinces that was recently slashed.”
Smith was then handed the microphone.
“I appreciate the opportunity to address some significant misinformation that has been put out there,” she began.
“The fact is that our government has increased transfers to provinces in healthcare by six per cent, compounding, every single year. They’ve gone up from about $20 billion a year to about $35 billion a year, and they will continue to go up at that rate for the next couple of years.”
Beginning in 2017, however, those increases in financial transfers to the province will decrease to three per cent, if the Conservatives are re-elected.
“Obviously, at six per cent, it doubles every 12 years, so that’s not going to be sustainable forever,” Smith said.
“We will be introducing a permanent formula that will ensure that future governments do not do what past governments have done … balanced their budgets by cutting transfers to provinces. We don’t think that’s right.”
But decreasing the amount by which the transfers will increase is not the same thing as a cut, Smith said.
“There are no healthcare cuts. We have increased and we will continue to increase (the funding to the provinces) and the difference between us and the other parties is we’re not putting any strings on that money. That money goes to the provinces to use on their priorities according to what their people want.”
Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff said whether or not you call the Conservatives’ healthcare funds transfer proposal a cut, the Liberals want to focus on how the money is being used rather than the actual amount of money being made available.
“Laura has correctly pointed out that if you keep doubling it, you eventually can’t afford it,” said Schwarzhoff. “So there has to be a way to transform the system. The first thing we’d love to do is keep you all healthy so you never need it. Since we’re not going to be able that, we have to find more effective ways to do it.”
He said that pumping money into hospitals is not an effective way to run a healthcare system.
He also said one of the main problems with the system is that because of a lack of federal leadership, provinces that are making good decisions aren’t sharing those ideas with the others, and when the provinces make bad decisions, they aren’t sharing what they learned from those, either.
“We will start, right away, by bringing health ministers together. We will find the best practices, the worst practices, and we will move along to transform the healthcare system. If that requires $36 billion in additional funding, it will be there. I’m guessing it won’t. We will find some efficiencies.”
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