Healthcare – Ontario election will be won or lost on health care
“Undoubtedly, healthcare will play a central role in this upcoming election, with it being one of the most critical issues affecting voters at the ballot box,” writes Adam Kassam. (DREAMSTIME)
The past few months have been marked by political scandal and upheaval in Ontario with the dramatic PC leadership race that followed the resignation of Patrick Brown. This was just the preamble to what will be a tumultuous dialogue leading to the June 7 election.
As is customary during elections, our political parties have made grandiose promises to appeal to voters. Both the Liberals and the NDP have recently delivered overtures of their platforms, which are heavy on health care. The PCs, meanwhile, have ostensibly no platform after choosing to abandon the People’s Guarantee.
Andrea Horwath introduced elements of her NDP campaign with its hallmark being a $1.2 billion public dental plan. She also criticized the government saying, “When we win, we will end hallway medicine inside our hospitals.”
Premier Wynne responded in the Throne Speech by outlining her government’s promises on health care, including the expansion of mental health services and increased investment towards home care.
Given the importance of health care to individuals and their families, it is reasonable to ask if the government has kept its promises from years past. During her tenure, Wynne has overseen cuts to front line health-care workers, a freeze in hospital funding and a reduction in residency training spots for medical students. Even her implementation of OHIP+ has drawn criticism from health care leaders who have found patients denied coverage for drugs previously covered.
Interestingly, the Ontario Medical Association also unveiled a new campaign called Not a Second Longer. It highlights the growing frustration of patients and doctors, with its central tenet being unacceptable wait times. This grassroots initiative, which has the potential to reach the 320,000 patients seen every day, will become a vocal presence for candidates vying to be premier.
Health care spending is the largest provincial expenditure at over $50 billion annually and growing. This means that Ontarians can expect it to be a popular campaign issue.
However, no party has offered details on how its health care initiatives would be paid for. This is crucial because Ontario has the distinct honour of being the largest subsovereign debtor in the world, with our province owing over $300 billion dollars and spending over $11 billion annually to service it. Debt repayments alone are the fourth largest spending item and the largest growing spending area in the budget.
Undoubtedly, health care will play a central role in this upcoming election, with it being one of the most critical issues affecting voters at the ballot box. While most of the rhetoric leading up to June 7 will focus on partisan politicking, we should collectively understand that this is also a referendum on who to trust with our loved ones’ care.
By rejecting the predictable sound bites and talking points from our politicians, we would send them a clear message that their specifics for health care reform are a matter of life and death.
Adam Kassam is the chief resident in the department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Western University.