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OTTAWA Canada’s political leaders are off side with the vast majority of Canadians when it comes to accountability in health care spending, according to a new Pollara survey released this morning by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The vast majority reject the position of Canada’s premiers that health care is their exclusive domain and want Ottawa to ensure federal health care dollars are spent on public, not-for-profit health care. They think all governments do a bad job when it comes to making sure health funds are properly spent.

More than eight in ten (81%) Canadians believe the provinces must guarantee federal health dollars are spent on health care and provide clear reporting as a condition of receiving more federal health care funding. Only a small minority (16%) believe the provinces should not have to meet any conditions in order to receive more federal funds for health care.

“Canadians are sick of politicians bickering over health care. They want to see every penny of their health care dollars spent on patient care and vital support services, not siphoned off to boost corporate profits. And they aren’t fooled by what governments currently try to pass off as reporting and accountability,” said Judy Darcy, CUPE’s National President.

An overwhelming majority (92%) want federal funding specially earmarked for health care, as recommended in the recent report of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care led by Roy Romanow.

Canadians’ advice to the First Ministers on the question of public funding to private for-profit health care is: don’t do it. By a margin of more than three to one (77%), Canadians want the Prime Minister and Premiers to ensure earmarked health dollars go exclusively to public, not-for-profit health care. “The message is clear: not a penny of our tax dollars to profit,” said Darcy.

Almost 8 in 10 Canadians (77%) think the federal and provincial governments do a poor or very poor job of making sure that every dollar intended for health care is spent on health care and reporting these results to Canadians.

“Governments have been given a failing grade by Canadians. With elections looming in seven provinces, it’s time the premiers realized health care is too important to be used as a political football or handed over to corporations. Politicians ignore Canadians’ views on health care at their peril,” said Darcy.

The Premiers will gather behind closed doors in Toronto today to discuss health care. At the same time, the federal cabinet will be meeting privately in Ottawa. The First Ministers will then meet on health care the first week of February.

“A key first step would be for the First Ministers to open up their meeting to the public and the media so we can judge for ourselves their commitment to transparency and accountability,” concluded Darcy.

On behalf of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Darcy recently wrote the Prime Minister outlining a plan for greater accountability in health care spending. The plan calls for:

- conditions that ensure all health care dollars are spent on health care, with not a penny diverted to corporate profits;

- better accounting of all federal health dollars, not just new money;

- establishment of rules and enforcement measures to ensure compliance with the principles of the Canada Health Act;

- real transparency of health spending through timely and regular reporting to Parliament.

Survey results are drawn from a national telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians commissioned by CUPE and conducted over the past week (January 11 -19, 2003) by Pollara. The results are considered accurate to within +/- 2.9%, nineteen times out of twenty. The full Pollara report is available on the CUPE website at www.cupe.ca.

Among CUPE’s half million members, 180,000 work in health care.


For information, contact:

Robert Fox, CUPE Communications (613) 795-4977 (cell) or
(613) 237-1590 ext 263

Anne McGrath, (613) 294-9326 (cell)