"The first thing we should be looking at is tax fairness rather than cutting social programs like Medicare." - Elisabeth Ballerman, CHPS Co-Chair and HSAA President.
Ottawa (30 Nov. 2011) - Members of the Canadian Health Professionals Secretariat (CHPS), were front and centre when federal, provincial and territorial health ministers met in Halifax last week to discuss the upcoming negotiations over the Health Accord and Canada Health Transfer (CHT).
CHPS is a national advocacy body representing 70,000 unionized health science professionals who deliver the diagnostic, clinical, rehabilitation and preventive services that are essential to timely and quality care.
The Health Accord and Transfer expire in 2014 but discussions across the country have already begun. Governments have been sounding the alarm saying that health care is unaffordable, yet at every turn they provide corporate tax cuts thus reducing government revenue.
To help explain the funding process and how we can in fact afford to invest more in health care, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has produced a pamphlet called Here they go again. The pamphlet spells out how the federal transfers work and why more investment is needed.
In Halifax, CHPS members reminded the Health Ministers that Canadians have repeatedly said they want government to make our Medicare even better by investing more in home care, mental health, long-term care and a national health human resource strategy.
They argued that in order to make this possible, governments need to address the growing revenue problem. Since the mid-90s all levels of government (municipal, provincnial and federal) have cut taxes to corporations and high income earners so much that they've reduced their revenue by six per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) - a loss of $90 billion in revenue every year.
"Health care can be extended by reversing cuts to some personal and corporate taxes, " said Elisabeth Ballerman, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) and CHPS Co-Chair. "It's true that health care's percentage as a share of provincial budgets is growing, but that's only because the budgets of other public services are being cut."
"The first thing we should be looking at is tax fairness rather than cutting social programs like Medicare. If you shrink the whole pie and change not one iota of funding for health care, of course it will be a larger proportion of that whole pie."
Hundreds of people gathered at a public forum on Nov. 24 in Halifax, organized by the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) and other civil society organizations. They were urged to remain vigilant in demanding that the public system be maintained and strengthened.
The next day, hundreds more rallied in the street in support of public Medicare. Twenty health care members of the PEI Union of Public Sector Employees (PEIUPSE/NUPGE), including UPSE President Shelley Ward, also traveled to Nova Scotia to take part in the demonstration.
As one way to stand up for public health care, NSGEU/NUPGE is taking aim at the issue of privatization. The union is encouraging members to Fight Fiction With Facts by sending their health care success stories in to be used to debunk myths about the public system.
Proponents of privatization often suggest that public health care workers are incapable of innovation that improves care while reducing costs and wait-times. Front-line health care workers know from their own experiences that this is simply untrue. Members can send their stories to firstname.lastname@example.org to help fight back against the dangerous dogma of privatization.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE