Canadian Health Coalition

Executive director lauds Ghiz for seeking changes to equalization program

Charlottetown Guardian, April 17, 2012
By Jim Day

The federal government is “getting ready to cut and run” from health care, says the head of a group fighting to preserve Medicare.

“Their rationale – they tell themselves this so that they can get to sleep at night – this is a provincial matter,” said Michael McBane, executive director of the Canadian Health Coalition.

“Of course, that is false, that’s absolutely false.”

McBane lauded Premier Robert Ghiz’s call for changes to the equalization program and the premier’s urging to see a cap on the federal wealth-sharing formula removed.

In a throne speech earlier this month, Ghiz said equalization does not recognize the higher cost of delivering public services in small provinces.

McBane says P.E.I., along with most other provinces and territories, with suffer dearly if the federal government begins funding health care on a strict per-capita basis.

He said Alberta stands to gain about a billion dollars a year if Ottawa begins such funding – money that would come from a single pot and thereby reduce the relative shares of each other province.

Alberta has a five-year funding deal with its health superboard that runs until the end of 2014-2015, the year the province would receive the first boost in federal cash from the new Canada Health Transfer deal.

“Almost literally every single other jurisdiction – almost (every other), maybe one or two exceptions – are going to be losers,” said McBane.

He accuses Prime Minister Stephen Harper of building a wall around Alberta while ensuring his government dismantles the national health-care system.

He applauds the formation of groups like the Innovation Committee of the Council of the Federation, a national premiers’ health-care working group that will get provinces working together to develop ideas and methods to improve health service delivery across the country.

Still, he says provinces and territories “need to be more ambitious in what they can do together.”

McBane was to join the P.E.I. Health Coalition Monday in a planned meeting with Ghiz and Health Minister Doug Currie to discuss the premier’s role as co-chair of the Innovation Committee and also address the impact of CETA on health care, pharmaceuticals and other pertinent issues related to health care.

The premier was forced to cancel the meeting to deal with the sudden death of Rory Beck, the chief of executive council, who died of natural causes Friday.

The Canadian Health Coalition, a public advocacy organization dedicated to the preservation and improvement of Medicare, has serious concerns about the CETA, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.