Monday, March 21, 2011

Health Accord in hands of unelected senate — Canada Health Coalition

Advocates fear undemocratic move to bypass Parliament
March 10, 2011

Medicare advocates say the the Harper government has placed the fate of Canadian health care in the hands of the unelected Senate by giving it a mandate to conduct a second mandatory review of the 2004 Health Accord.

The previous review was conducted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health in 2008. The move bypasses the House of Commons, where the Harper government is in a minority, to a Senate committee, where the Conservatives are now in a majority. This is one more in a growing list of anti-democratic actions by the Harper government.

Hearings started today in the Senate Committee on Science, Technology, and Social Affairs. Already, organizations that support a strong leadership role of the federal government in health care, including the Canadian Health Coalition, have been told they will not be allowed to appear and give testimony.

"The message for Canadians is clear: The Harper government not only holds Parliament in contempt, it also seems to view Canadians who strongly support public health care with contempt as well," said Michael McBane, National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition. "This does not bode well for the future of Medicare."

On the eve of negotiations for renewal of the Health Accord in 2014, members of the Harper government and the Conservative Party have floated trial balloons hinting at cuts to health care transfers. One prominent caucus member has even called for a termination of all federal health care transfers.

The Canadian Health Coalition, founded in 1979 at a conference attended by Tommy Douglas, Emmett Hall, and Monique Bégin, has been critical of the lack of leadership from the Harper government on health care and, particularly, its decision to abandon a key element of the Health Accord: the National Pharmaceutical Strategy.

The federal government can't claim to be concerned about health care sustainability and then continue to encourage the drug industry to make obscene profits and drain health budgets.

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