A canal skate would be good
for everyone’s health

Ottawa - Wednesday, February 5, 2003 - by: Walter Robinson, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation


Dear First Ministers, welcome to the nation’s capital. Before sitting down for dinner at 24 Sussex Drive, please go for a skate along the historic Rideau Canal. Over on your left is John, a 22-year old testicular cancer patient: he’s worried about access to the latest chemotherapy drugs. Next up, you’ll pass 38-year old Janet, a working mother of two who is on a 12-week waiting list for an MRI scan to diagnose her recurring headaches.



in Canada

Up ahead is Saed, a 4-your old who has neuro-immune deficiency syndrome (NIDS). He was misdiagnosed as autistic and his parents have been left in limbo for two years only to find out that their best hopes lie with a world-renowned doctor based in Los Angles. Why can’t they get treatment in Canada?




Then there’s good old Frank, selling hot chocolate at one of the ice-level eateries. He’s 53 years young and awaiting prostrate surgery — something that statistics say at least two of the fourteen of you will need — and Frank wonders how he can be fast tracked into the operating room similar to the treatment like some politicians have been.




Now, what has this little outing taught you? It is to be hoped that you’ve learned that none of these citizens (read: taxpayers) is concerned with your abhorrent games of political posturing, quibbling over how to be accountable or to whom, or engaging in fights about who has constitutional jurisdiction for what when it comes to health care.




National polls show that taxpayers believe health care is a national issue and shared jurisdiction. These patients want quality, accessible and timely health care, period. What they don’t want or need is more bureaucracy, they want and deserve results. (Memo to Mr. Romanow: read your report again, you did recommend more bureaucracy!)



red herring

Pay little attention to recent ads from public sector unions raising the public vs. private red herring debate. Pleas for more public money instead of private sector profits are hypocritical in the extreme. Beware and be warned, union leaders are salivating over the prospect of increased funding to the provinces so they can seek better deals for their members … talk about lining one’s pockets.



better wages
no solution

The work of nurses, doctors, and other allied health professionals is valued and important, but let’s be frank, hiking nurses wages 22% doesn’t hire one new nurse, buy one new MRI machine or fast track new drug approvals.




To make this week’s health care summit a lasting success, here’s what you need to do. First, the Canada Health Act must be modernized. New principles of quality, choice, sustainability, and accountability should be added to the to the Act with public administration giving way to public governance — a truer reflection of where the system is now and where it is heading.




Next, acknowledge the role that non-government providers can and must play. Every industrialized nation on the face of the planet employs some blend of private and public medicine with the most successful regimes being those that welcome the competition and discipline that come with private sector participation.




Finally, ensure that funding reforms include making each generation more responsible for its health care expenditures (ex: medical savings accounts, health care savings allowances, etc.). Our current pay-as-you-go ponzi scheme that funds this afternoon’s surgeries from this morning’s tax collections is unsustainable.




On the nation’s number one issue, more political games and posturing is inexcusable. You’re all skating on thin ice, to avoid falling in, implement real and lasting health care reforms. Simply cobbling together another funding deal and declaring a two-month truce before squabbling again is simply not on. The nation is watching.

Walter Robinson
Federal Director



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