Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper Re: Budget Cuts
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
September 28, 2006
Dear Prime Minister,
Ontario nurses feel compelled to respond to your government’s decision to cut one billion dollars in spending. Given the overwhelming evidence that the health of Canadians is profoundly affected by social determinants of health, members of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) are asking you to reverse these planned cuts.
Prime Minister Harper, these cuts will affect people who rely on these very critical programs. For example, alarming rates of smoking in Aboriginal communities will go unchecked with the elimination of funding for the First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Strategy. We are also alarmed that sound health and social policy will be eroded by eliminating funding for such programs as the Medical Marijuana Research Program, the Canadian Policy Research Networks, and Health Canada’s Policy Research Program.
Cuts to research programs on the health of visible minorities and support for voluntary programs will be detrimental to the health of vulnerable populations. Cuts to programs aimed at improving adult literacy and workplace skills will compromise opportunities for the working poor and youth to find better jobs and to build a brighter future.
As nurses, we know that health is more than health-care. Many of the proposed cuts will exacerbate social exclusion. For example, the Court Challenges Program has allowed minority groups such as Aboriginals, gays and lesbians, and people with disabilities to challenge federal laws which discriminate and lead to inequality. We are gravely concerned that Canada’s tradition as a fair and just society is being damaged.
Prime Minister Harper, we understand there is a role for fiscal responsibility in the budget process. However, the government’s attempt to promote itself as a model of “prudent fiscal management” leaves tens of thousands of Canadians behind at a time when the government is sitting on a $13 billion budget surplus. Ontario’s nurses know that the long-term costs of these cuts will far exceed any immediate savings, and will undermine the progress being made to help disadvantaged and vulnerable people.
It is in the interest of all Canadians and our future as a nation that you reverse these cuts.
Mary Ferguson Paré, RN, PhD, CHE President
Doris Grinspun, RN, MSN, PhD(c), O.Ont. Executive Director
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health
Honourable Gilles Duceppe, Leader, Bloc Québécois
Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance
Honourable Bill Graham, Interim Leader, Liberal Party of Canada
Honourable Jack Layton, Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada