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Public health care in Canada facing an emergency

by Stefan Christoff

Public health care in Canada facing an emergency

Public health care in Canada is facing a major crisis, as sustained underfunding, accompanied by active political sabotage by the Conservatives, points toward the demise of Canada's public system.

Conservative politicians are refusing calls to negotiate a renewed 10-year federal health accord, one that asserts common standards for public health care, while lurching toward policy directives announced a couple years back that link health care to free-market economic winds.

Health care in Canada, without a common policy framework, means no public health care for the long term. As provincial governments coast-to-coast divert public health funding into the corporate sector, mainly via public-private-partnerships, acute underfunding is only heightened, while corporate, for-profit options are emboldened.

As the mainstream media approaches a consensus in asserting that the 2014 Conservative budget is not controversial, even calling it comfort food, the reality is that the budget is austerity-driven, shaped by a financial logic of zero deficit, all while failing to meaningfully address the health care crisis, one of the most pressing federal issues facing Canada.

Conservatives are saying very little about the Canada Health Act, legislation that has worked in the past to shutdown provincial attempts to embrace free market 'solutions' for public health care problems, as seen in Alberta. In parallel, a legal case, that challenges the fundamental integrity of the public system, will soon arrive at the supreme court, driven by corporate-minded doctor in BC.

Many signs point to an intentional Conservative attack on the public system, beyond silence on the Health Act, politicians in Ottawa are actively encouraging provinces to 'experiment', policy speak that celebrates increasing reliance on private involvement in the public system. A process securing greater profit margins for the corporate health sector, profits reliant and bolstered by public financing and dependent on the infrastructure of a public health system.

As people in Canada follow toxic US political debates surrounding a deeply botched, corporate-driven government healthcare plan proposed by the Obama administration, urgent action is needed today to respond to systematic policy attacks on Canada’s public system.

Conservative policy on health care in Canada is equivalent to a strategy of methodical destruction, including localized demolition work, accompanied by programmed dynamite blasts, all targeting a massive structure, that the Conservatives hope will eventually crumble.

Certainly there are many voices speaking out, from public sector unions like CUPE, to the Council of Canadians, but missing from this response is urgent, grassroots mobilization. These Conservative attacks on the healthcare system are literally life and death issues for so many, as many reading understand from experience, attacks on the public system that embody the neo-colonial, pro-corporate, austerity fever that today is sweeping these lands.

Why should activists mobilize to defend health care? There are entrenched problems of access, representation and gender inequality that the current incarnation of public healthcare in Canada fails to address or cover, all magnified with an inability of the public system to deeply address the colonial nature of the Canadian state. However Canada's public health system is an evolving process, not originating in state-driven liberal policy, but in grassroots mobilizations over many decades, driven by social movements and workers movements, collectively demanding access to healthcare, asserted as a collective right for all, a history of mobilization that is profound and inspiring.

The attacks Conservative against public health care are real and dangerous, although the moves necessary to fight back at a grassroots level are unclear, a major and deep discussion within progressive networks is urgently necessary.

Let us move together to defend health care as a right, not rooted in notions of a liberal Canadian state, but inspired by the collective ideals fundamental to popular mobilizations of past generations, ideals that are the true bedrock of public health care, as a representation of the commons.

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Topics: Solidarity

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Stefan Christoff (Stefan Christoff)
Montreal, Quebec
Member since Avril 2010


Stefan Christoff is a Montreal-based journalist, community organizer and musician.

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