NDP leadership candidates’ views on health care

September / October 2017   Comments

The New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada will elect a new leader in October to replace Thomas Mulcair. He announced he would step down after losing a key leadership vote in April 2016.

At mid-August, four candidates were vying for the leadership. Canadian Nurse invited them to give their views on health care and describe the health-care policies they would adopt if they won their bid and then became the next prime minister. (A similar piece on the Conservative leadership race appeared in the March/April issue.) All four NDP leadership candidates responded.

Charlie Angus

“One of the greatest issues facing our country is the lack of access to proper health care for Indigenous communities, especially youth,” MP Charlie Angus says. “Even after the adoption of Jordan’s Principle, we see too often the federal and provincial governments caught up in who will pay for the care of an Indigenous youth rather than providing the care. That is not even mentioning the lack of support for mental health services and suicide prevention. I will work with Indigenous communities to ensure that they have access to the same care everyone in Canada enjoys.”

Angus says he would also work with the provinces and territories on building a better health accord. “The health-care system is undergoing a drastic change as our population ages. We need to ensure that our system has the resources it needs and we avoid more cuts that generally mean reductions to nursing and other health staff.”

Another priority for Angus includes pursuing public dental coverage. “I will also aim to modernize our health system by working with the provinces to finally deliver universal pharmacare based on the four pillars of universal access to approved drugs, a fair distribution of costs, a safe and appropriate prescription process and a commitment to value [for] money, as laid out in the Pharmacare 2020 report.”

Niki Ashton

MP Niki Ashton says her plan would be to bring three currently missing pieces into the fold of public health services. “My approach to universal medicare will focus on enhancing Canada’s public health-care system by emphasizing preventative care and reducing patient costs. Preventative care must include access to dental care, comprehensive mental health services and pharmacare.”

Ashton says she would work with the provinces to ensure all Canadians have access to public dental coverage.

Her plan “will create a truly national mental health-care system by working collaboratively with provinces to improve our mental health system, tackling the social determinants of mental health and ensuring people have smooth transitions between mental health services from youth to adult.”

She says she would create a national pharmacare act, establish an essential drug fund, create a Canadian drug agency and set reasonable price limits on patented/brand-name drugs.

Guy Caron

“If elected, a Guy Caron government would protect our single-payer universal health-care system from privatization and spending cuts by strengthening the Canada Health Act to ensure that it remains robust for future generations of Canadians,” says MP Guy Caron. “It will be essential for the federal government to support and partner with the provinces and territories to increase the level of transfers they receive as they continue to work toward improving our public health-care system.

“We will also put together an in-depth study to explore the modernization and integration of our health-care system with social services so that Canadians can receive all the high-quality care they need without delay.”

Caron says one of his priorities would be to provide incentives to recruit and train more doctors and nurses, as well as other health-care professionals, and extend the range of services provided, including home care, palliative care and prescription drug coverage.

“Finally, we’ll invest in the construction of new clinics to increase Canadians’ access to primary care. These new clinics will correspond to the needs of the communities in which they operate,” such as mobile clinics in rural or remote areas and community health clinics in urban centres.

Jagmeet Singh

Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh says he wants to strengthen and extend the health-care system. “This means enforcing the Canada Health Act to protect public health care and to ensure better access to reproductive health care and abortion services, especially in rural and remote communities.”

“I will work collaboratively with provinces, territories and First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups to negotiate health accords that provide stability to address current and future challenges effectively,” he says.

“We need substantial new investments to deal with our aging population. I affirm the need to transition to home care and improve access to long-term care and palliative care. We need to extend universal health care to include publicly provided universal pharmacare and dental care. And to do all of this, we need a workforce development strategy for the health-care sector.”

“Canada needs to address the social determinants of health, and this begins by tackling poverty and inequality to improve mental and physical well-being among Canadians,” Singh says. “My anti-poverty agenda provides income guarantees to workers, seniors and Canadians living with disabilities and sets the standard for stable work for those affected by temporary and precarious employment.”

All four candidates were expected to participate in CNA’s second virtual town hall on health care, to be held on Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. ET. The Facebook Live broadcast can be seen at Facebook.com/CNA.AIIC.

David Granovsky

David Granovsky, MA, is CNA’s manager of government relations.

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