OCTOBER 5, 2018
Show me your friends, I'll tell you who you are
Today the United Conservative Party will be hosting Premier Doug Ford in Calgary. This alliance between Premier Ford and Alberta Premier hopeful Jason Kenney, is in short, a concerning one for those of us who are wary about a potential repeat of the massive cuts that Ontario has been experiencing under Ford's leadership.
- Cut $350 million from promised mental health funding
- Rolled back the expansion of OHIP public drug insurance to cover all Ontarians under 25 years old so that those with workplace plans would not be covered, leaving them with user fees, co-payments and deductibles that can run to hundreds of dollars a month, severely impacting families with sick children
- Cut back hospital beds that had been opened prior to the election intended to alleviate the extreme levels of overcrowding in Ontario hospitals
- Cut social assistance in real dollar terms leaving people living far below the poverty line
- Cut a host of public programs and services that alleviate poverty and help create equity
"Albertans can take warning from what is happening in Ontario," said Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition which has spent the last 12 years fighting to save local hospitals in rural communities, stop cuts and successfully roll back privatization and user fees for patients. "Doug Ford ran his election campaign and refused to reveal an actual platform stating what he intended to do if he won. Now we are seeing major cuts to programs across the board and a big manipulation to try to create a false "crisis" in order to soften up the public for the real agenda: cuts to public health care and privatization of services. People did not vote for this. Unfortunately, it was all hidden in the election campaign."
We do not want to wait and see if the phrase, "show me your friends, and I'll tell you who you are" holds true. We have seen mixed messages from UCP leader who has indicated a need for a period of sustained fiscal restraint and suggested a 20% cut to public services, but who has conversely insisted that with 3% growth and a spending freeze or a 1-2% cut to spending, Alberta's books could be balanced by budget year 2022. We have also heard from a UCP candidate who claimed his party's plan for managing Alberta's debt is " going to hurt."
These conflicting claims and lack of clarity have the potential to have drastic consequences for Albertans' health care system, just as Ontarians have already been seeing.
"Albertans deserve to know exactly where those cuts would come from before making any decisions at the polls" stated Sandra Azocar, Executive Director Friends of Medicare. "Those of us who lived through the Klein-era remember his drastic cuts in the name of deficit reduction. Albertans saw the loss of an entire generation of nurses, a hospital blown up, a multibillion infrastructure deficit and a culture of privatization by stealth that continues to undermine the expansion and improvement of our public health care system."
As we approach Election 2019, FOM calls on all parties to provide a fully costed platform which clearly lays out which areas will be impacted in the name of deficit reduction, rather than just policy announcements and promises.
"We want parties to keep in mind that most often, the unintended consequences of policies directly impact everyday Albertans and their families," said Azocar. "Health care is too important to Alberta so to shroud behind vote-pandering rhetoric."