Access to Universal Health Care.

Tommy Douglas had a vision: that every Canadian, no matter how rich or poor, should have access to basic healthcare as a human right.

His strength of conviction helped build a movement from coast to coast to coast – a movement that carried him as he fought governments and private interests to bring public healthcare to Canada. This was the first phase of Medicare.

Medicare’s second phase should focus on enhancing our healthcare system to put an emphasis on preventative care and reducing patient costs. As Tommy put it, the ultimate goal of Medicare must not be to just treat illnesses as they happen, but to keep people well.

We now have the opportunity to make universal medicare a reality – by lowering costs for live-saving medication and increasing access to essential care.

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For-profit healthcare and an unfettered market cannot and will not deliver access to life-saving care for everyone. This is why the first part of our health care plan involves a National Pharmacare program that will increase universality and accessibility and hold pharmaceutical companies to account.

As leader of Canada’s NDP I will work to:

Create a Canada Pharmacare Act consistent with the principles of the Canada Health Act. This act would ensure life saving medication is administered and delivered under these principles most notably universality and accessibility.

Establish an Essential Drug Fund as part of the Canada Pharmacare Act. Working with provinces, this fund would provide access to essential medications as recommended by an independent body using evidence-based analysis. The list would address a wide range of common health issues including access to medications critical to mental health and reproductive health.

Create a Canadian Drug Agency to get a better deal on life-saving medication from big pharma companies. This agency would be responsible for bulk buying and negotiating better prices for Canadians.

Set reasonable price limits on patented brand-name drugs that would not be covered by the Essential Drug Fund by modernizing regulations in the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) to stop drug companies from taking advantage of desperately ill people. The PMPRB was created in 1987 and is responsible for setting price limits on brand-name drugs in Canada. It was intended to protect Canadian consumers from drug-makers using their monopolies to hike prices. However, since 2000, spending on patented drugs as a share of GDP has risen by 184 per cent. We will use the PMPRB to set reasonable price limits on brand-name drugs in Canada and ensure people are not held hostage by drug companies in their time of need. Prices for essential medicines for rare diseases or life-saving treatments should not be at the discretion of drug companies looking to make a quick buck.

Canadians across the country are suffering because they can’t afford basic dental care. If they don’t have private health insurance and can’t afford to pay out of pocket, they are forced to wait until their condition is so severe it requires surgical care in a hospital.

It’s wrong to leave people in pain because they can’t afford treatment – and it’s the most expensive way of delivering the dental care people need.

As leader of Canada’s NDP I will work to:

Ensure no one is left to suffer from preventable dental pain:

Right now the only form of dentistry covered is surgical-dental services, leaving many people to suffer until their dental problem becomes a dental emergency, costing provinces more. As leader of Canada’s NDP I will work to expand and modernize the Canada Health Act to include preventative dental care to increase access to medically necessary basic dental services.

Emphasize preventative dental care:

Children, workers living in poverty, and those making ends meet with part-time and contract work suffer the most because of a lack of access to basic preventative dental services. We know that regular check-ups, fluoride treatments, and cleanings can help catch small problems before they become big problems. As leader of Canada’s NDP I will work to increase access to preventive dental care.

Partner with the provinces to ensure comprehensive dental care:

Currently,  Canada provides less public access to dental care than most OECD  countries, even ranking below the United States. As leader of Canada’s NDP I will work to increase federal transfers and partner with the provinces to ensure all Canadians have access to public dental insurance coverage.

Tommy Douglas’ vision of a universal health care system included ensuring every Canadian has access to comprehensive medical care, including dental care.

It’s time to make that vision a reality.

Every year thousands of Canadians across the country struggle to access mental health care through a patchwork of systems that are fragmented, incoherent and crisis-oriented. Where these life-saving services are available, long wait lists are the norm.

Access to mental health care is particularly limited for many Northern and rural Canadians – this is an even bigger problem for First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.  

Indeed, those the most likely to need mental health services are in many cases the least likely to have access to them. Low income, LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous peoples, persons living with disabilities, new Canadians, and youth are often unable to access the help they need.

As work becomes more precarious, housing less stable, and inequality rises, so does the need for mental health care. Yet, at a time when one in five Canadians is struggling to cope with mental illness or addictions, stigma remains more common than treatment.

Mental health care is life-saving care. As thousands of people die of opioid overdoses across the country, we need urgent action to treat mental illness and addictions, from immediately declaring it a public health emergency to adopting long term harm reduction solutions. That means treating root causes as well as acute needs.

Together, we can deliver the improved mental health care Canadians need.

As Leader of Canada’s NDP I will work to:

Tackle the social and economic determinants of mental health :

Poverty, income inequality and discrimination are at the root of many mental health problems. Simply having a safe, stable, and affordable place to live and access to nutritious food would go a long way towards addressing the mental health needs of many Canadians. Our approach to health care needs to shift its emphasis towards preventative care which includes investments into housing, income support programs, education and employment services. This is an intersectional approach running through each and every principled vision I offer.

Move on the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation

The calls to action provide a roadmap for improving Indigenous health services, including mental health services, in a way that respects and addresses the health needs of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and off-reserve Indigenous peoples.

Create a truly national mental health care system:

By developing Canada-wide standards and benchmarks for mental health care and tracking outcomes, we will improve our capacity for data collection and facilitate sharing best practices across the country.

Ensure all workers have access to paid sick leave:

Right now millions of workers face financial ruin if they take time off to care for themselves. It is time for national standards setting out minimum access to paid sick leave, and stronger laws protecting workers from facing discrimination because of their mental health needs.

End the criminalization of addiction:

It is time to expand access to life-saving services and interventions such as supervised consumption sites and access to replacement therapy. Too many people are fighting both addiction and the deadly stigma that restricts access to evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

Support first responders:

We will partner with the provinces to ensure that those on the front lines of the overdose crisis are supported as they work to save lives.

Act with urgency on the overdose crisis:

We will work with the provinces to expand access to harm reduction options and evidence-based treatment.

Better transition of mental health services from youth to adult:

Too often mental health services are divided between youth services and adult services. This can lead to youth losing trusted services at a time when they are at their greatest need. Together with the provinces we will work to close these critical gaps in care.

Increase collaborative care in our mental health system:

Family doctors are often the first point of contact for people seeking help with mental illness, and they are well-positioned to help guide ongoing care. We will work with the provinces to bring together family doctors and other primary care providers to deliver collaborative care with mental health professionals.