SFT - Need and Desire May Not Be Enough

1 minute read

By Brad Graham, Vice-President, Toronto

The Speech from the Throne announced the Government’s desire to establish national standards for long-term care, expand community care, and included a recommitment to national pharmacare. While these services are currently provided by provinces there are gaps and uneven coverage across the country.

COVID tragically exposed significant shortcomings in the care provided in long term care homes. Even prior to COVID, the need for improved seniors care was very clear – 10 years from now, nearly one quarter of all Canadians will be aged 65 years or older. In terms of pharmacare, 1 in 5 Canadians either have no or inadequate drug coverage and COVID will have increased this number.

While the federal government may make a strong case for the need, and express a strong desire for action, need and desire may not be enough to overcome 3 major hurdles:

  1. While committing to “work with Provinces and Territories”, health care is clearly provincial jurisdiction.
  2. Less than a week ago, Premiers were calling on the federal government to significantly ramp up its annual support for the existing system by $28 billion. This would bring federal cash support from 22% to 35% of annual health spending.
  3. The establishment of “national standards” will be resisted as it implies a higher degree of direction and intrusion than Provinces have ever agreed to. For example, while the Canada Health Act requires universal access for all medically necessary physician and hospital services, it is basically the provinces who determine which health services are medically necessary.

The inclusion of long term care and pharmacare in our national system would be a great step forward. However, it will be a very big step, requiring significant cooperation and goodwill between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. And a very, very, big cheque.

About the author

Brad Graham

Brad Graham

Vice President, Toronto

Brad Graham is Vice President of the Institute on Governance (IOG), Toronto. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. An economist, Brad spent 25 years in the Ontario Public Service including as Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ministries of Public Infrastructure, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Research and Innovation. He held other senior positions in the Ministries of Health and Finance. Brad Graham was awarded Ontario’s Amethyst Award for excellence in public service.