Open letter to Canada's premiers from Ontario's nurses: address fiscal, social and environmental gaps between all Canadians
Toronto, July 25, 2006 - As Canada’s premiers enter the Council of the Federation’s annual
meeting this week, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO),
asks them to address three types of imbalances: fiscal; social and environmental.
The key discussion item at the meeting will be the fiscal imbalance and equalization
payments, and RNAO urges the premiers to address inequities between the provinces
and the federal government in a way that will benefit all Canadians.
Premiers, we must make sure that our social safety net continues to stretch from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Resources are needed from the federal government. But to be effective, they must come with strings attached. Federal funds must be targeted to areas that Canadians consistently say are their top priorities, including publicly funded, universally accessible health care; pharmacare programs that prevent Canadians from having to choose between life-saving drugs and financial ruin; social programs that ensure Canadian children grow up healthy; and protection of the environment, including meeting Canada’s commitments on climate change.
Achieving these goals will take more than simply paying lip service to the idea that someone who lives in Calgary has the same access to social services, including health care, as a fellow Canadian in rural Prince Edward Island. This is particularly true of reducing surgical wait times. We ask the premiers to remember that reducing surgical wait times can, and must, be achieved within the scope of our publicly funded health-care system. We ask them to remember that, time and time again, not-for-profit delivery has proven to be more cost-effective. And, we remind them that concerted efforts to train the right mix of health-care professionals, including nurses, and nurturing interdisciplinary work must continue so that Canadians have increased access to care by seeing the right health professional in the right place and at the right time.
We also ask the premiers to remember that reducing surgical wait times is only one piece of the health-care puzzle. Committing to reducing wait times for primary health care and home health care continues to be imperative to ensure we support Canadians to stay healthy, or recover from illness in the comfort of their own homes.
We urge the premiers to work with the federal government to advance a made-in-Canada pharmacare program by immediately moving to implement the National Pharmaceutical Strategy, first proposed at 2004’s First Ministers’ Health Summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The fact is, only one in 10 Canadians has access to insurance that will cover full drug costs outside the hospital system. This is a gap that has a very real, very harmful effect on millions of ordinary Canadians every day.
We also remind the premiers that health is more than just health-care. According to Campaign 2000, more than one million Canadian children and their families continue to live in poverty – a key indicator of health outcomes. Premiers, if you truly want to strengthen the Confederation, please invest in the generation that will lead our country in the years to come. Low-income children are more likely to have health problems, including those that come about from simply not having access to good nutrition. Poverty can also impede a child’s ability to access high-quality pre-school programs that lay the foundation for success in school and lifelong learning.
We cannot allow Canada, one of the richest countries in the world, to deprive its children of the most basic necessities of life: decent nutrition and shelter. We must offer Canada’s children opportunities that will enable them to grow into competent and skilled workers. This is vital for our children and for our nation if we are to compete in the global market. A national child-care program and a housing program are desperately needed to close the social gap we are experiencing within, and between, jurisdictions. These programs would also strengthen the leadership role of our federal government.
Canadians are also concerned about our country’s very poor environmental performance, and growing evidence of the adverse impacts of environmental degradation and global warming on human health. The environment is a well known determinant of health, and Canadians expect the federal and provincial governments to take effective measures to protect the environment from further decline.
Addressing all of these fiscal, social and environmental imbalances is within the scope of our premiers to achieve. We know you have the commitment and dedication to address them. We ask that you don’t compromise them by giving in to the short-term political gains to be made by cutting taxes.
Tax cuts have already severely strained the government’s ability to provide social services that are essential in modern society. Further reductions in taxes will continue to fray the social safety net, and widen the gap between the rich and poor. Canada’s corporate taxes are already lower than those in the United States, and the savings corporations enjoy because of social programs like our universally accessible health-care system make Canada a logical and cost-effective place to do business; the auto industry’s continued investment in Ontario is a testament to that. We urge you not to mortgage our future by allowing further tax cuts today.
Nurses have a vision of a Canada where solutions to fiscal imbalances mean all Canadians have equal access to programs that allow them the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives. We hope that the premiers will share our vision, and work together to lead a country where each citizen is equally empowered to strengthen the Confederation. Nurses are always eager to work with you to build success.
Best wishes on your deliberations,
Mary Ferguson-Paré, RN, PhD, CHE President
Doris Grinspun, RN, MSN, PhD (c), O. ONT Executive Director