Statement by Bea Bruske: We need to strengthen and expand our public health care system

February 2, 2023

Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, released the following statement after meeting with Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos to discuss the upcoming meeting with Canada’s premiers. 

OTTAWA – Canada’s unions are grateful to have had the opportunity to attend a productive and constructive meeting with Minister Duclos.  We had the chance to reiterate that any new funding added to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) must come with strings attached to ensure the money is used for public health care delivery.

Canada’s unions are calling for transparency and accountability on the part of the provinces and territories. We’re asking for a commitment from the provinces and territories to bring in and implement publicly funded and publicly delivered programs that ensure Canadians can access quality, public care.

We expressed serious concern with the provinces using public dollars to increase for-profit healthcare. We’ve seen what happens in two-tier health care systems: the most vulnerable are left behind, while the wealthiest among us are the only ones who can access care when they need it.

For-profit healthcare is more expensive to deliver than public healthcare and will only worsen the staff shortage. Patients and residents in for-profit establishments are proven to have worse health outcomes than those under public care. We need to look no further than for-profit long-term care facilities have fewer staff, lower pay, fewer care hours per resident, more bed sores and more hospital transfers.

The vast majority of people who lost their lives during the first year of the pandemic were seniors living in long-term care homes. It is a tragedy. Governments need to do better.  Canada’s unions are urging the government to bring long-term care entirely into the public system and to make the new National Long-Term Care Services Standard mandatory. 

We are also calling on the federal government to prioritize measures that will actually help improve public health care in this country. People need a universal, publicly funded and publicly delivered Pharmacare program. With almost 1 million Canadians cutting back on food or home heating to pay for their medication and another million borrowing money – there is clear urgency.

We’ve been calling for a meeting between the federal government and the premiers for a long time. We hope they will use their time together on Tuesday wisely to rise to the challenge of the health care crisis. Lives depend on it.

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