McGuinty says wait times could lengthen

The government has repeatedly responded to criticisms about health care by trotting out statistics describing how much wait times have been reduced since 2004.

On Monday Premier Dalton McGuinty suggested to reporters that wait times could increase once cost-cutting “reforms” are introduced in the March budget.

Is McGuinty confusing cuts with reforms? What kind of “reform” would citizens buy into that actually lengthened wait times? This makes no sense.

The suggestion may also rock public opinion. Ontarians have been sold on the idea that their biggest health care concern is wait times. 82 per cent told the Vector Poll in December that government’s top priority should be to reduce ER wait times.

In fact, much of the transfer funding from the 2004 Federal-Provincial Health Accord was to address waits in five areas – cardiac care, cancer care, hips and knees, cataract surgery and diagnostic imaging (CT and MRI).

It is notable with a new accord on the horizon that Ontario’s Premier would contemplate reneging on the targets of the present accord.

After all, this is what he agreed to do with the six per cent annual health care funding increases his government receives from Ottawa.

Will Ontarians now support a government willing to sacrifice this priority especially as tax cuts continue to flow for corporations and the wealthy?

McGuinty may have not been thinking beyond his business audience when he described Ontario’s tax cutting agenda on Monday’s address to the Canadian Club of Toronto.

“To make sure Ontario is competitive,” McGuinty said, “we eliminated capital taxes and reduced corporate taxes. Our corporate tax rates are now lower than every U.S. State and lower than the OECD average… We’ve cut the tax rate on new business investment by almost half.” The Premier went on to say 93 per cent of Ontarians are paying less income tax than four years ago.

This would all indicate that there is considerable room to address the revenue side of the equation – something McGuinty steadfastly refuses to do. Can he defend this position while abandoning his government’s commitment on wait times?

It is possible that McGuinty was speaking out of turn with regards to wait times. Health Minister Deb Matthews was similarly on the hot seat for suggesting that the province would withhold funding for C-Sections, only to have the Ministry of Health later clarify they had no plans to delist them from OHIP.

In a period where the government appears to be floating almost daily trial balloons from the upcoming Drummond Commission report, everybody is listening very carefully to every nuance and clue.

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