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August 20th, 2014

Reality Check: does Minister Ambrose understand her own file?

Conservative health minister Rona Ambrose’s speech this week to the Canadian Medical Association suggests she doesn’t understand the biggest challenges facing Canadian health care. Perhaps it’s because her government helped create them.

Ambrose claimed she was going to talk about challenges facing our health care system, but then evaded any mention of the single largest challenge – her government’s unilateral cut of $36 billion from future health care budgets.

When Conservative cuts are fully implemented, federal spending on health care will have declined to an historic low – just when Canada faces added pressures of caring for an aging population.

  • Minister Ambrose was silent on whether she supported Canada Post’s recent announcement that it will require doctors’ notes in order for elderly Canadians and persons living with disabilities to receive mail service at home.
  • Like the NDP, the CMA has criticized this announcement as unnecessarily increasing the administrative burden on doctors and taking time away from patient care.
  • Minister Ambrose told the CMA, “[F]or policy makers like me, it’s the medical science and data-based evidence that must guide our decisions.”
  • Her claim ignores the many ideological decisions her government has made in the field of health care – such as the attempt to cancel Insite; the decision to turn an anti-drug campaign into a partisan tool; or linking future health care funding allocations to GDP, instead of basing health investments on need.
  • The Minister admitted the Conservatives’ voluntary approach to disclosing drug shortages is not working and the government is belatedly looking at moving to a mandatory system.
  • Just a few months ago, Minister Ambrose voted against the NDP’s Bill C-523, which would have required mandatory disclosure of drug shortages.
  • Despite repeated calls from the CMA, CARP and the NDP for a national seniors strategy, the Minister was dismissive, telling reporters she didn’t see the need for one.
  • Seniors currently account for nearly half of health care spending in Canada and within 25 years, more than a quarter of Canada’s population will be over 65. Without a strategic approach to providing care, the strain on Canada’s health system will be immense.

Canadians deserve better than Conservative failure on health care leadership.