Ottawa – January 14, 2022 – The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many holes in our public health care system, and there are many on the political right who see it as an opportunity to privatize health care.
Canada’s public health care system has suffered for many years from a lack proper funding, insufficient worker recruitment and retention strategies, in addition to government austerity. Wait times for surgeries, diagnostic tests, and other procedures were already an issue prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but delays exacerbated by the pandemic are being used as an opportunity by the political right to expand the role of private health care.
Right-wing voices like the National Post and think tanks like the Fraser Institute and C.D. Howe Institute are taking advantage of the situation to promote privatization as the solution to the issues facing the country’s health system.
Conservative provincial governments have not acted with the requisite urgency to get Canadians through the pandemic. They have often taken the easy way out, hoping that cases will resolve themselves instead of making the necessary investments to keep the system afloat. An audit from 2021 revealed that Doug Ford's Conservative government in Ontario had left over $6 billion unspent that was to be directed to fighting the pandemic.
In Saskatchewan, we see public dollars going to corporations using public-private-partnership (P3) models to build new hospitals. The government is also funneling money to private corporations to provide diagnostic testing and other procedures.
In Ontario, we see the same scenario unfolding. In July 2021, the Ford government announced up to $24 million in funding to increase the volume of publicly funded surgical and diagnostic services to independent health facilities and towards supporting the licensing of new independent health facilities. It should be noted, 97 percent of Ontario’s currently funded independent health facilities are for-profit companies.
In Alberta, Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government passed Bill 30 in the summer of 2020, which allows for the contracting out of surgical and diagnostic services to for-profit facilities. The government has also moved ahead with the contracting out of services like laboratories and laundry facilities to the private sector. At the UCP’s general meeting in October 2021, delegates voted to approve a policy supporting the creation of a privately funded health care system.
Right-wing governments, politicians, and their corporate friends have always salivated at the billions of dollars in profit they could make off the delivery of health services in Canada and are now using the problems exacerbated by the pandemic to push their privatization agenda.
This must stop and governments of all political stripes should be focused on investing in our nation’s public health system in areas like the recruitment and retention of health care workers, especially as these heroes are stretched thin by another wave of COVID-19 infections.
Governments must also move ahead on universal pharmacare and dental care, which will save Canadians billions of dollars in health care costs. Now is not the time to award health care profiteers, rather now is the time to invest and expand our public health care system.