Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

RNs fear for the future of Medicare; urge Canadians to vote on June 28

RNs fear for the future of Medicare; urge Canadians to vote on June 28


TORONTO – June 14, 2004 – The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) is gravely concerned about the future of Medicare and the potential for the federal election results to endanger this cornerstone of our national identity. To this end, the association released today its analysis of the federal Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic parties’ platforms, and is urging the public to review the comparison before casting their vote on June 28.

“The number one issue for nurses – and the public – in this election campaign is securing a strong and sustainable publicly funded and not-for-profit delivered health-care system and a robust nursing workforce,” said RNAO president Joan Lesmond. “Our health-care system and our profession are in critical condition and we must make choices that will define their future and ensure their survival.”

“We believe that if we fail now, we are looking at the beginning of the end of Medicare,” said RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun. “Health is a resource for living and health care is a human right. We reject the claims of the few that for-profit delivery will cure what ails Medicare.”

Indeed, a recent study conducted by McMaster University health researchers reached a clear-cut conclusion: care at for-profit hospitals cost 19 per cent more than not-for-profit hospitals – the equivalent of $7.2 billion Cdn each year.

“We all know what happens when shareholders and investors call the shots in health-care delivery – we will pay more and see a decline in the quality of care. And the consequences are dire: fewer highly skilled personnel like registered nurses, cutting patient care corners to accommodate the profit margin, and inevitably, higher death rates,” said Lesmond.

RNAO is calling for a national ban on public-private partnerships (P3) to build hospitals; for-profit hospitals; and for-profit diagnostic imaging such as MRI and CT scan clinics. These initiatives will only serve to erode Medicare’s long-term sustainability. The association is also calling on politicians to put a moratorium on further tax cuts and commit to the full implementation of the Romanow report.

“We must choose between tax cuts and two-tier health care or the principles of the Canada Health Act, including expansion of public health, primary health care, home health care, long-term care, rehabilitation and catastrophic drug coverage. When expanding Medicare, we must give first right of refusal to not-for-profit agencies,” said Grinspun.

“Eighty-four per cent of Canadians want to strengthen, not dismantle, Medicare, and they have a right to know which federal leadership hopefuls are on their side,” Lesmond added. The association invites the public to review its comparison of the three major parties’ platforms, which is available at, and urges Canadians to tune into this week’s leaders’ debates and make an informed vote for the future of publicly funded, not-for-profit health care in Canada.

RNAO’s analysis of the parties’ platforms reveals the following positions:


  • The Liberals and the NDP promise to enforce the Canada Health Act and protect Medicare.

  • The Conservative Party is silent on the matter. The absence of new information combined with Stephen Harper’s previous criticism of the government health-care monopoly and his call for Alberta to opt out of Medicare leads the association to conclude that a Conservative government would compromise Medicare.


  • The NDP has the strongest nursing platform, calling for the implementation of the Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee recommendations to sharply resolve the nursing shortage.

  • The Liberal Party refers to nurse practitioners and offers to collaborate with the provinces to resolve medical provider shortages.

  • The Conservatives fail to address nursing.

Access to health care:

  • All three parties support the creation of a home health-care program. The Liberals are specific on the scope of their program (post acute including medication and rehabilitation, mental health case management and intervention, and palliative care). The NDP promise a home care program modeled after the one in Manitoba. The Conservatives promise a home care program, but provide no details.

  • Only the NDP and Liberal parties promise to move ahead with primary health care.

  • All three parties promise to create a pharmacare program for catastrophic drug coverage.

Sustainability of Medicare:

  • All three parties support strong predictable federal health transfers. The Conservatives would implement the existing Health Accord, the Liberals would raise the transfers, and the NDP would increase transfers to 25 per cent of provincial costs within two years.

  • The NDP is explicit about prohibiting for-profit delivery, the Conservatives and the Liberal platforms are silent on the issue. However, in a June 10 letter posted on the Canadian Nurses Association’s Web site ( the Liberals say: “The goal of the Liberal government is to expand publicly administered and publicly delivered health care for all Canadians, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay.”

“Elections only come every four or five years – let’s use this opportunity to advance solutions to secure and strengthen Medicare. We need a dependable health-care system now and for generations to come,” said Grinspun. “Let’s cast our vote for better access to nurses and for a publicly funded, not-for-profit delivered health-care system.”

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise 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.


For more information, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.209
Cell: 647-406-5605