At the Heart of Justice blog continues the focus on health care in Canada with a series by Bill Blaikie, The United Church of Canada’s representative to the Canadian Health Coalition. We offer this personal reflection by Bill as an invitation to move deeper into the many important issues surrounding health care in Canada.
This past January I experienced a reversal of roles thanks to my having become The United Church of Canada’s representative on the board of the Canadian Health Coalition (CHC).
I was in Ottawa for the CHC’s board meeting and strategy session, and on January 26 I headed up to Parliament Hill with a small army of Canadians from across the country who were associated with CHC. They organized into small groups in order to lobby Members of Parliament (MPs) about what was needed to preserve and strengthen Medicare. It was very different for me to be ushered into an MP’s office for a meeting, after having spent almost 30 years as an MP, and been on the receiving end of lobbying efforts.
The Coalition groups met with over 140 MPs that day. Many MPs were new, with barely organized offices, but they were keen to meet and hear what we had to say. A priority was to encourage MPs to urge their political leadership to renew federal leadership on the health care file.
The CHC was asking for federal leadership in the signing of a new Health Accord [PDF] between the federal government and the provinces. The accord signed in 2004 expired in 2014, and there is growing uncertainty about the stability and fiscal significance of the federal contribution to health care funding. A new accord would provide stable provincial funding and set national standards.
The need for leadership in establishing a National Pharmacare Plan was also one of the issues highlighted in the meetings with MPs. There are too many people who can’t afford their medications. A National Pharmacare Plan would provide equal access to prescription drugs for all Canadians, and control costs. It needs to be considered as an addition, and not be counted as part of the traditional share of federal funding.
The CHC also has a day once a year when many MPs are visited in their constituency offices by local people to advocate for a more secure and expansive Medicare. I invite all Canadians to become involved in defending Medicare and access to health care that is based on need not ability to pay, by meeting with their own MPs at any time during the year.
A United Church minister, the Hon. Bill Blaikie, was an MP from 1979 to 2008, during which time he served as Parliamentary Leader of the NDP, Deputy Speaker, and Dean of the House of Commons. Following his retirement from federal politics, he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba (2009-2011), and served as Minister of Conservation and Government House Leader. His political memoir, The Blaikie Report – An Insider’s Look at Faith and Politics, was published by United Church Publishing House in 2011.