Boosting the Canada Pension Plan is on the election radar. But we haven't heard a word about medicare. And, Murray Dobbins writes, there are several vultures circling that program. B.C. doctor Brian Day has launched a constitutional challenge to medicare, which would allow medicare corporations to compete with publicly funded medicare.
Then there are the investor dispute mechanisms in all of Stephen Harper's free trade deals:
The flurry of corporate rights agreements being pursued by the Harper government are also a threat to the viability of medicare. The Canada-EU deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), will immediately add at least $2 billion to drug costs in this country. The 51-country Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) now being negotiated in secret, threatens to apply the deregulatory imperative of investment agreements explicitly to services -- including health care. As Public Services International (PSI) has pointed out, TISA "would restrict governments' ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations."
But the biggest vulture of all is Stephen Harper himself:
Harper hates medicare more than any other aspect of Canadian governance and democracy. He actually quit politics in the late '90s to become the head of the viciously right-wing National Citizens Coalition -- an organization founded in the early 1970s explicitly to fight medicare.
Until 2014, medicare in Canada received federal funding through a 10-year (legally binding) accord negotiated by the provinces and the federal government, providing provinces with a 6-per-cent increase every year. But what is in place now is a 10-year funding formula imposed by Harper on the provinces with virtually no consultation. Its increase per year is just 3 per cent -- which means a loss of $36 billion over the 10 years. It is classic Harper -- make a structural change whose bite is worse and worse as years go by. The underfunding systematically pushes provinces to cut and privatize.
Harper has abandoned all federal oversight or guardianship. There are no strings attached to the money. And the equalization aspect of the former accord is also gone, meaning increasingly unequal health care across the country and an erosion of the principle of universality. Lastly, the current funding formula not only brings the funding contribution of Ottawa to a record low 19 per cent; it is not legally binding and if Harper wins the election he could unilaterally chop billions from medicare any time he chooses.
Even if CPP contributions are increased for everyone, they would never cover the costs of private medical care. And Mr. Harper is focused on returning this country to the good old days -- when all medicare was private.
One quick note: We'll be away in Ottawa tomorrow. But I'll be back on Monday.