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Monday, October 13, 2008

Will Tuesday's election change anything in healthcare?

If you cut through the rhetoric and the interminable photo-ops and media-availabilities, the unhappy truth of the matter is that when it comes to prospects for real healthcare reform, Tuesday's election offers little reason for optimism.

One of the media narratives throughout this campaign has been the absence of debate on health policy. University of Toronto policy analyst and physician Michael Rachlis bemoaned the apparent lack of concern about healthcare issues in a strongly worded op/ed in the Toronto Star last week. "Canadians are justly proud of their health system but this election campaign does not mirror their concerns," he wrote, indicting all five parties for what he sees as unclear and insufficient plans to remedy our healthcare system's problems. (Referring to a Canadian "healthcare system" may in fact be part of politicians' failure to address the problems, he writes, given that healthcare delivery is, for a majority of citizens, a provincial jurisdiction.) Voters in this year's election, Dr Rachlis concludes with an unmistakable disappointment, "will have to look long and hard to identify a party that champions their vision of medicare."

In the same vein, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) issued a press release last week under the surprisingly direct heading "Politicians lack the vision and courage to address health care" (PDF).

Doctors, nurses and the average Canadian all know that the healthcare sector needs far more than just the analgesia and palliative care it has been receiving for a number of years now. But politicians' solutions have been either consistently unrealistic -- proposals to train many more physicians and nurses than we currently do without addressing the underlying education, remuneration and delivery problems, for instance -- or chronically absent. Health policy hasn't become the serious campaign issue it deserves to be, but there are undeniably some differences -- albeit not immense ones -- in the various political parties' approaches. So as a doctor, a nurse, a hospital admin, or as patient, how should you decide whom to vote for on Tuesday?

The CMA's "Voter's Guide to the Issues" (PDF) may provide a place to start. At a very manageable nine pages, the document includes an introduction by President Robert Ouellet and summaries of responses to questions about the six most important health policy issues posed by the CMA to each party. (The section reserved for the Conservatives' answers consists of one page almost entirely blank but for a terse note in the centre: "The Conservative Party of Canada declined to respond.")

To read more about each party's healthcare platform, follow these links:

Conservative Party
Recap of the "Conservative record in fighting disease and promoting health for all Canadians" over the past two and a half years

Liberal Party
Platform (PDF)

New Democratic Party
Platform (PDF)

Green Party
Platform (PDF)

Bloc Québécois
Platform (PDF, English)

Whomever you decide to vote for -- whether it's one of the five parties above or one of the many other parties running candidates in some ridings -- don't forget to cast your ballot. For information on where to vote and what type of identification you need to bring with you, consult Elections Canada.

Photo: Detail from map of 2006 federal election results (PDF), Elections Canada

1 comment:

  1. Having read all of the platforms one has to wonder where reality sits. Green, Liberal and NDP all promise extension of services in an econmically tough time. The Conservatives say virtually nothing but leave the lingering knowledge that both Harper/Clement are strong advocates of privatization. Maybe a minority is best suited for health care. Slow (fiscally responsible) progress rather than radical change.