Election issue: Health care privatization

The two new hospitals in Campbell River and Courtenay are slated to maintained under 30-year contracts

NDP leader Adrian Dix has promised to repeal the remainder of Bill 29, the legislation that cut wages 15 per cent and allowed contracting out of health support services early in the Liberal term of government.

Parts of that legislation were struck down in a 2007 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, and the government was forced to pay compensation and consult with unions before any further contracting out of services. In a pre-campaign interview with Guardian, the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) magazine, Dix made no specific commitments.

“We are going to need to improve and strengthen the public role if we are going to continue to provide a high level of service, given the federal cuts that are coming to health care in 2014-’15,” Dix told the publication.

They’re not really cuts. After a string of six-per-cent increases, the growth of health care transfers is capped at four per cent starting next year.

After signing a series of “net zero” contracts with various public service unions in the past year, the B.C. Liberals tabled an election budget proposing to hold health spending growth to two per cent this year.

In 2008, the B.C. Liberal government passed amendments to comply with the court ruling that collective bargaining rights are constitutionally protected. The ruling didn’t reverse pay cuts, but ordered payment of $80 million in compensation and retraining, and required negotiations before any further contracting out of health care jobs.

Judy Darcy, then secretary-business manager of the HEU and now the NDP’s candidate in New Westminster, said at the time that the legislation allowed the government and the union to “move on and build some kind of a partnership.”

Platform highlights

  • The B.C. Liberals emphasize their legislative change to allow Licensed Practical Nurses to leave the HEU and join the B.C. Nurses’ Union. The party wants to “partner with hospice societies” to double the number of hospice beds by 2020.
  • The NDP distances itself from public-private partnerships to build and run hospitals. Dix said 30-year contracts are too long for health care facilities. The two new hospitals in Campbell River and Courtenay are slated to maintained under 30-year contracts.
  • The B.C. Conservative platform criticizes the B.C. Liberals for spending less than the national average on health care, and for raising Medical Services Plan premiums. Party leader John Cummins has joined the B.C. Liberals and NDP in promising an expansion for the 63-year-old Penticton Regional Hospital.
  • The B.C. Green Party platform promises to “support development of co-ops and social enterprises for the provision of community-based health, social and education services.” It also wants to expand MSP coverage for chiropractic, physiotherapy, eye exams and massage therapy, and impose a junk food tax.