With no public release, the contents of the Drummond Commission’s preliminary report are slowly emerging via statements from the party leaders.
The latest is from PC leader Tim Hudak, who said Drummond is recommending a 2 per cent per year reduction in spending on everything outside of health and education to 2018/19. Hudak says his party would support the minority Liberals on implementing that plan.
Earlier in the week Dalton McGuinty said that the government would constrain spending increases to one per cent per year, which is a significant cut when inflation is running at 3.4 per cent.
However, McGuinty did say that health would be protected with 3 per cent increases, which is below the 3.6 per cent they had forecast prior to the election. As we previously pointed out, if health is getting 3 per cent, and overall spending is restricted to one per cent, you know that some significant cuts are coming.
While the Federal government is softening its stance with regards to its own war on the deficit, early indications are the McGuinty government will charge ahead regardless of the human consequences.
Governments saw the need to protect us by stimulating the economy during the last recession, but it seems this time we are about to add fuel to the flames by compounding the coming recession with a significant contraction of the public sector.
Health care may appear to be the big winner among spending priorities, but it’s all relative.
The recent Mowat Centre report suggests much of the groundwork has been already laid in bringing down the rate of spending increases to health care, but the process is a slow one. Over the summer the Auditor General was sceptical of the government’s plan to reduce health spending to 3.6 per cent, warning it could lead to cuts or increased debt at our hospitals. Now the government is talking about even less at 3 per cent.
It is also possible that whatever government saves from new efficiencies in health care will be offset by cuts elsewhere.
For decades governments have been warned that social inequality has a direct impact on health care costs. Yet instead of closing the gap, we have seen it widen with cuts to public services, privatization, the weakening of labour laws, freezes to both the minimum wage and public sector wages, and tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy. Recently the Windsor Star wrote an editorial in support of tampering with the existing arbitration system, which would only add to the long list of measures tearing down the middle class.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, “the evidence indicates that they key factors which influence population health are: income and social status; social support networks; education; employment/working conditions; social environments; physical environments; personal health practices and coping skills; healthy childhood development; biology and genetic endowment; health services, gender; and culture.”
Real after-inflation incomes have stagnated for the middle and dramatically fallen for the poor. Our social supports have been eroded. Canadians are working longer hours and under increasing stress. Students are facing a mountain of debt. Our physical environment is deteriorating. Ontario has fewer hospitals beds per capita than just about anywhere in the developed world. Our report card is not good, and would explain the growing health problems we are facing, including the recent explosion of diabetes.
The Liberals have taken a hard-line on taxes – Don Drummond was told that there can be no tax increases. This is despite the fact thatCanada’s super rich pay even less in tax than their counterparts south of the border. Corporate tax cuts appear to be safe despite the fact that Ontario already far more competitive than its neighbouring jurisdictions.
PC leader Tim Hudak keeps repeating the mantra that we have a spending problem, when in fact the evidence would suggest we have a revenue problem.
The question is, who is really going to pay for it?
As a footnote to this story, the Niagara Health Unit has put out a new video addressing the same issue. “We know that health care by itself is not going to keep everyone healthy,” Andrea Feller, the region’s Medical Officer of Health told the Niagara Falls Review. “This is about getting us as a community to start talking about addressing some of those root causes that keep us healthy.” The video was adapted one already in use in Sudbury.
Watch the video below: