Health care to be a top priority

As we approach the next federal election in 2015, the various political parties will begin to roll out their priorities and platforms.
Last week, NDP leader Tom Mulcair kicked off the process by declaring that increasing health-care funding and improving access to health-care services will be a top priority for New Democrats.
A fair criticism of the NDP over the past couple of years was that we offering less “positive” policies and have been far too “negative” in our approach during this Parliament.
To some degree, those criticisms ring true. This is the first time in our party’s history that you have given New Democrats the role and responsibilities of being Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Parliament.
In our time, our negative work–meaning the work we’ve done researching, opposing, and holding the Harper government to account–has yielded some very positive results for Canadians.
I think we’ve done a very good job in this regard, but it is not our only responsibility to you.
In addition to our work holding the government to account, we have not forgotten the other role you have given New Democrats in Parliament; that of being the “government in waiting.”
On this account, we continue to consult with Canadians and are drafting policies in response to your suggestions and concerns.
This past week, Tom offered a glimpse of the NDP’s health care plan that will be formally unveiled closer to the election, but here is a sampling for what we plan to submit for your approval in 2015.
As we all know, the federal budget finally is expected to reach balance in 2015 after years of deficits, which have added more than $160 billion to our nation’s long-term debt.
We expect the other parties to offer their own plan but for New Democrats, we plan—first and foremost—to use any new surpluses to address the health-care deficit in Canada.
In 2011, the Harper Conservatives announced they plan to cut $36 billion in health-care transfers to the provinces between 2014 and 2024. Yet as “baby-boomers” age, the demands on our already-overburdened health-care system will only increase—and increase dramatically.
You know this and we know this, so why would a government of any political stripe actually cut health-care spending after the budget reaches balance? New Democrats oppose this wrong-headed approach.
As we are financially able to, an NDP government will implement a practical and affordable plan to strengthen public health care because you and your family deserve the best quality care possible.
Our health-care priorities are as follows:
•Better access to home care, long-term care, and palliative care
We have found that Canadians want to see home care, long-term care, and palliative care recognized as essential medical services, just like treatment in the hospital.
These services are not luxuries and they need to be fully accessible, whatever a patient’s income, and provided at the same high quality and standards wherever they live.
•Expanded public coverage for prescription drugs
Canadians face a patchwork of public and private plans in Canada that don’t provide adequate coverage.
Inequities and gaps in coverage across provinces are undermining public health care.
We’ll address this to help ensure every Canadian has access to the prescription drugs and medical treatments they require.
•Tackling the social determinants of health
Every Canadian should have the opportunity to lead a healthy life, and the federal government should ensure the basic conditions for good health.
Addressing the social determinants of health will save both money and lives.
•Recognizing the importance of mental health
The Mental Health Commission of Canada estimates that in any given year, one-in-five Canadians experiences a mental health problem or illness.
But the lack of government attention, combined with other factors like stigma, has isolated patients with mental illness, and only one-third of those who need mental health services in Canada actually receive them.
We will work to break that stigma and tackle the issue of mental health head-on to better help Canadians and their families enjoy healthy and productive lives.
You can expect more announcements, policies, and details of our plan as we approach the 2015 election.
In the meantime, you should know that New Democrats are listening to your concerns and developing a responsible, affordable, and effective plan to improve the lives of Canadians from coast to coast to coast beginning in 2015.
We are ready.