TORONTO, Ont. — In a stark example of policy choices that do not benefit Ontarians, recently the federal Conservatives said they could spend in excess of $100 billion on warships and will again cut corporate taxes, while standing firm on removing $8.2 billion in health care funding for Ontarians by 2023.
Today’s report from Canada’s auditor has called into question the amount of money the Harper Conservatives have set aside to buy new warships with the suggestion that the ships will cost more than the budgeted cap.
In the meantime, the Harper Conservative government has announced it does not intend to renew the Health Accord, a 2004 agreement with the provinces on health care funding. It intends to force through a unilateral plan for health care that will mean $36 billion less for medicare by 2027-28 across Canada. For Ontario that means an $8.2 billion cut to health funding over the next decade.
“A funding cut of this magnitude will be devastating for Ontario which already has the fewest staff, hospital beds and services of any province. Because the money the government has set aside for this warship plan may not be enough, Ontarians should be very concerned that even more federal funding for health care will be cut in order to pay for ships. For Ontario patients who already receive five hours less nursing care than patients in other provinces, this means even less bedside care for generations to come,” says Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario.
This is not the first time the Harper government has chosen spending on the military over investments in public health care. Earlier this year the Conservatives announced the purchase of fighter jets at an estimated cost of over $30 billion.
The $8.2 billion cut to the federal health transfer was also roundly criticized by the Ontario Liberal government in its fall economic update. As the federal cuts compound every year, the losses will increase every year after 2023-24. The “cumulative impact would be equivalent to reducing federal funding of health care by an estimated $550 for every Ontarian by 2023,” according to the Ontario Liberals.
“It is clear that the Harper government has little commitment to the universal health system the majority of Canadians value and want to see enhanced, not diminished by funding cuts. That the federal government is contemplating another round of tax cuts – a discredited economic policy that does not generate jobs and comes at the expense of cuts to health services, is very troubling,” says Hurley.
The 2004–2014 Health Accord provided the provinces 6 per cent a year in stable funding for health care after deep cuts in the 1990s. Even with the yearly six per cent increase, today, the federal government covers less than one quarter of provincial health spending.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer concluded that over the next 25 years, under the new federal rules federal funding will fall to an average of 17.9 per cent of provincial health spending and slide to 12 per cent over the next 75 years.
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