TORONTO, Oct. 9, 2008 – The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is urging nurses and the public to consider the platforms of the major parties in the upcoming federal election and vote for the party they believe puts health first.
With the release of the Conservative platform on Tuesday, and just days away from the vote, today the association released its analysis of the political parties’ platforms. The report compares their proposals in several categories including healthy communities, the environment, protecting and strengthening the public health-care system, and providing better access to nurses.
“As nurses, our definition of ‘health’ is broad. Poverty, housing and the environment – these are all crucial areas that shape and influence an individual’s ability to be healthy,” says Wendy Fucile, RNAO’s President. “We are asking nurses and members of the public to read this document and reflect on the various proposals offered by the parties before Oct. 14.”
RNAO Executive Director Doris Grinspun says the comparison provides voters with a way to demand that candidates be accountable and transparent on key issues. “This is the third time in four years that Canadians are going to the polls. Now, more than ever, we need a government that believes health care is a right, not a privilege,” she says. “Canadians deserve a strong and sustainable public health-care system that will look after them and their families.”
RNAO’s analysis reveals the following positions:
The Conservative platform does not address poverty. The Liberals, NDP and Green Party each recognize poverty as a significant problem and offer solutions, including hard targets to reduce poverty levels that are consistent with the 25 in 5 coalition, a network of groups – including RNAO – that are working to eliminate poverty in Ontario.
While all four major parties address housing in their platforms, only the NDP and Green Party commit to a fully funded, affordable housing strategy.
The Conservative platform falls short of RNAO’s expectations because its targets use 2006 levels as a baseline. The Liberals, NDP and Green Party offer proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are consistent with the Kyoto Protocol and RNAO’s position. All four parties offer proposals on investments in renewable forms of energy.
All of the major parties recognize the need to train more nurses and doctors to deal with national shortages in our health-care system. Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper elaborated on the Conservative Party’s commitment to health providers, including $5 million to encourage physicians practising abroad to return to Canada, funding for 50 new residency positions, and establishing pilot projects to look at better ways to recruit and retain nurses. The Liberals would establish a Doctors and Nurses Fund to increase the number of residency positions, remove bottlenecks to licensing new health-care professionals, and forgive $10,000 per year of student debt for those who commit to practice in underserviced communities. The NDP has committed to training 50 per cent more nurses and doctors and forgiving student loans of health professionals who dedicate the first ten years of their careers to family practice. This would add 28,000 more health professionals to the system. The Green Party would also provide student loan forgiveness to health-care professionals who work in rural and family practice settings, and hire staff to reduce hospital wait lists.
The Conservative Party’s platform does not mention specific ways to protect and strengthen the country’s health-care system. The Liberals, NDP and Green Party express firm commitments to enforce the letter and the spirit of the Canada Health Act. The NDP and Green Party proposals go even further outlining steps to ensure delivery of care on a not-for-profit basis as well as measures to prevent provinces from using public money to promote two-tier health.
A national, publicly funded and controlled pharmacare program is a key demand of the RNAO and Canadians across the country who are faced with the prohibitively high cost of essential drugs. The Conservative Party is silent on the issue. Both the Liberals and NDP commit to a plan for catastrophic drug coverage. The NDP will phase in additional drug coverage for all citizens in cooperation with the provinces. The Green Party commits to a cost-benefit analysis of pharmacare.
The full report can be found at www.rnao.ca .
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.