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The Federal Health Transfer Needs Strong Strings Attached

February 3, 2022 Mark Millard

Statement from CUPE National President Mark Hancock, CFNU President Linda Silas, NUPGE National President Larry Brown, and SEIU Canada Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart:

OTTAWA, Ontario — Canada’s largest health care unions, collectively representing 635,000 health care workers nationwide, are united in their position that all federal financial transfers to the provinces and territories should come with strong national standards about the health care services that money funds.

There is no doubt federal funding for health care has fallen behind thanks to misguided austerity imposed by successive governments.

But provinces and territories should not be able to spend federal money in ways that weaken the absolute requirement that our health care system is universal, comprehensive, accessible, portable, and publicly administered.

Nor should provinces and territories be able to weaken or undermine our universal health care system with one hand, and then access federal money for other parts of the health care system with the other.

Privatization, for-profit medical facilities, ‘experiments’ with for-profit care, and for-profit care delivered through virtual health care systems, should be red flags for us all. We need to look no further than our patchwork systems of long-term care to see the damage done by chronic underfunding, the lack of national standards, and profit-based health care.

The failure of all levels of government to adequately invest has resulted in an alarming rate of job vacancies in the health care and social assistance sector, with 118,200 vacant positions reported in the third quarter of 2021. Those that remain working in the system are exhausted, stressed out, traumatized.

A response to this crisis of care needs to be one of the areas in which the federal government can lead the way by setting standards and coordinating with the provinces, including by ensuring that federal dollars go to public health care and the people working in it.

We represent health care workers across Canada, and we know that the best services come when the federal government provides adequate funding for health care and sets evidence-based national standards of care, and when all provinces and territories provide services that meet those standards. We call on each of these governments to commit to their part in ensuring everyone in Canada has access to the health care they deserve.

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