Health on Budget Day

The Liberals campaigned on an extensive and intricate platform, one that promised real money for home care. Trudeau pledged $3 billion over four years to cover in-home caregivers and financial supports for family care and palliative care. Within the Trudeau government’s first budget, tabled today, there can be found: money for infrastructure, middle class cuts, important investments in First Nations, and cash infusions for veterans, seniors and even the Canadian Space Agency. But that promised funding for what many would consider the most essential items — like provincial health transfers, home care and palliative care—is nowhere to be found, in spite of that election platform promise “to deliver more and better home care services for all Canadians.”

The 2016 budget includes some notable omissions in health, and a few last-minute changes to plans that were seemingly a sure thing.

Of course it is possible that said funds will be included in a future budget. The minister of health is actively engaged in discussions with territorial and provincial ministers of health, health sector stakeholders and Canadians on how to best invest in the health care system for long-term benefit. Fortunately, critical items like changes to the Canada Health Transfer, and the new Health Accord, along with home care and patient-centred approaches are part of these discussions.

But that’s not good enough for some. Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus is revising his previous motion for the establishment of a Pan-Canadian palliative and end-of-life care strategy which passed in 2013, but which the government failed to act on, and asking “that they actually start bringing in palliative care in areas under federal jurisdiction such as in the military, prisons and First Nations, and also to improve the EI caregiver benefits so that people who have to take time off to look after a dying relative can do so with a little less financial pressure.” He has also stated “it is imperative that those in their final days be given a range of options when it comes to their end-of-life treatment.”

Want the full picture? Check out the full 2016 Canadian Budget.

Meanwhile, in Quebec proper, Robert Salois, Quebec’s former health and welfare commissioner, is strongly criticizing the province after his position and organization were abolished under last week’s provincial budget (the independent health watchdog created by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard when he was health minister in 2006). The independent commission was tasked with pointing out gaps in health and social services across Quebec, examining how Quebec’s system compares to others in Canada, and publishing annual reports on the performance of the healthcare system. The reports were often critical.

The commission was in the process of investigating emergency room performance, doctors’ salaries, and the quality of residences for seniors when it was dissolved. Salois says he was not giving any warning that this end was in the cards. The elimination of the commission means it will be harder to evaluate and therefore improve Quebec’s healthcare system.

Quebec opposition was quick to criticize the decision, with the Parti Québécois health critic Diane Lamarre saying that the abolishment of the organization is “dangerous.” The Quebec Medical Association, which represents 10,000 doctors across the province, is also against the move.

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