Health and Child Care – Top Priorities

Labour Views – September 30, 2015

Written by Gayla Thunstrom, Acting President, Northern Territories Federation of Labour

When pollsters ask what issues Canadians care most about, two issues consistently rank at the top of the pile.  Canadians in general care most about the preservation of a strong, publicly-funded health care system.  And parents are most concerned about affordable child care.

That’s why the Canadian Labour Congress has made public health care and affordable child care two core priorities of its Better Choice advocacy campaign.

First to health care.  In recent years, Harper has underfunded Canada’s public healthcare system, spurned collaboration with provinces, declined to renew the First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care; ignored and disbanded expert advisory panels on health issues; weakened the authority of the public health agency; muzzled scientists; eliminated the best source of information on regional disparities relevant to health—the long form census; and eroded research support.  The lack of a national pharmacare strategy endangers the health of Canadians who cannot afford expensive medications they need.

In 2011, the Conservatives announced they would scale back federal health transfers to provinces from an annual increase of 6% to a rate tied with GDP.  This will cost provinces and territories $36 billion over 10 years.  The 2014 federal budget made the equalization portion of the Health Care Transfer contingent on a per capita formula. This move is expected to reduce transfers to have-not provinces by $16.5 billion over five years.

So when it comes to health care, don’t look to Harper’s conservatives for any help.  You need to ask your local candidates—especially the Tory—how they intend to correct this horrid record.

How about child care?

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives say that Canada doesn’t need a publicly funded and delivered early childhood education and care system. They’d rather give you a Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) cheque that doesn’t nearly meet the costs of private services, if you can find them.  A report from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) shows that more than half the money spent on the expanded UCCB will go to families without child care expenses of any kind.

Currently, only one in five children is able to access a regulated child care space in Canada. For a majority of Canadian families, child care is the second highest household expense. Combined, these obstacles disproportionately impact mothers in the workforce.

Publicly funded and delivered health care works for families and the economy.  Quebec’s $7 a day child care program more than paid for itself through mothers’ annual income and consumption taxes. The program increased the number of women in the workforce by 3.8 per cent, pumping an additional $5.2 billion into the Quebec economy and boosting the province’s Gross Domestic Product by 1.7 per cent.

With federal support, we can reap similar benefits through national, publicly delivered, professional child care.  Ask your candidates how they will ensure families finally get the quality child care they need, and don’t be fooled by the pitiful cheque Harper throws your way.

Go the Canadian Labour Congress website www.betterchoice.ca for more information on the four priorities for a progressive Canada.