More work still needed on universal pharmacare, long-term care standards, paid sick leave, the drug poisoning crisis, and protecting public health care in Alberta
This afternoon the federal government tabled their budget for 2022-2023. It included items laid out in the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the NDP, most notably: adding dental care coverage for children 12 and under this year.
“Dental care is health care. Yet far too many Albertans have long been forced to forego necessary dental procedures due to cost-related barriers to access, and entrenched economic inequality,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “The dental care commitment in today’s federal budget is good news for Alberta children, and we’re hopeful this will be the first step towards truly universal public dental care for all.”
The past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed both the vital importance of a strong public health care system, and the devastating consequences of under-investing in public health care. It has become especially pertinent that we must ensure that our health care system is well-resourced to provide timely, quality care to everyone who needs it, and that includes expanding the programs our Medicare covers, as well as implementing worker protections like paid sick leave.
While the federal government reaffirmed their commitments to bring forward national long-term care standards and to finally implement universal pharmacare, we urgently need leadership to see these programs accelerated to ensure Canadians finally have access to the care they need. Unfortunately, Premier Kenney has previously stated he would opt Alberta out of any national pharmacare program.
“Going forward, the details will matter. Governments working together will matter. Follow through will matter,” said Gallaway. “Friends of Medicare will continue to work with our partners in Alberta and nationally to achieve universal pharmacare and ensure strong national long-term care standards are implemented.”
Despite 2021 being our deadliest year yet for fatal drug poisoning, and calls from municipalities across Canada to act, today’s federal budget does far from enough to address this mounting public health crisis. Alberta is facing some of the worst of this crisis: we have a toxic drug supply that is killing more people every day, and a provincial government that continues to ignore the real issues.
“People are dying in record numbers, yet our governments still aren’t treating this like the public health crisis that it is,” said Gallaway. “At a time when our provincial government remains openly hostile to evidence-based solutions, there remains a lack of federal leadership on harm reduction, decriminalization or safe supply initiatives to keep people alive. This isn’t going away—we need urgent action from all levels of government.”
COVID-19 has shown the need for strong federal leadership in supporting and strengthening Canada’s public Medicare system. Yet, federal funding for public health care continues to be handed over to provincial governments with no assurances that it will be used to support the public system.
“Our health care system remains under strain because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while our provincial UCP government is pushing forward their privatization agenda as quickly as possible,” said Gallaway. “We need federal leadership to ensure all federal health care funding provided to provinces actually goes towards improving patient care and working conditions, and isn’t used to help dismantle our public health care system.”
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