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Atlantic Canada needs health-care funding based on need, not population: Green Party

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, deputy leader Jonathan Pedneault (centre) and David Coon, New Brunswick Green Party leader, attend a news conference in Fredericton, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hina Alam) Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, deputy leader Jonathan Pedneault (centre) and David Coon, New Brunswick Green Party leader, attend a news conference in Fredericton, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hina Alam)
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FREDERICTON -

The Green Party is calling on the federal government to fund health care in Atlantic Canada in keeping with the needs of residents, not based on the share of the region's population.

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the Atlantic provinces have a higher proportion, compared with the rest of the country, of residents who have complex health-care needs.

"The Maritimes, the Atlantic provinces, have a high proportion of people who have a higher need and demand for health care and those needs must be met and the formula must be fair," May told a news conference in Fredericton.

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon said funding has recently been distributed to provinces on a per capita basis, putting the Atlantic region at a disadvantage.

"Our health-care costs here are proportionately higher than in most other provinces because of our older population," he said. "Particularly in Fredericton, the issue of retirements among our health-care professionals is serious."

He also discussed the "disturbing trend" toward private management and delivery of health care in the country.

"In particular I'm speaking about the rise of the corporate ownership of surgical centres," he said, adding that the New Brunswick government of Blaine Higgs has brought in legislation that "opens the door" to corporate-owned surgery clinics.

"Additional health-care funding from the federal government must not profit private health-care corporations or their shareholders, but strengthen our publicly owned and operated health-care system. That's got to be part of the agreement with New Brunswick, that Premier Higgs signs with Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau."

Premiers across the country are set to meet with Trudeau in February to negotiate changes to the Canada Health Transfer. They want to see Ottawa cover 35 per cent of health-care costs across the country, up from the current 22 per cent.

Several private surgical centres in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic region now receive funding from provincial governments to provide knee, hip and other surgeries as a way to ease backlogs. The opening of private surgery centres will accelerate the slide toward privatization, Coon said.

"It is a slippery slope .... This will open a much bigger door to privatization, and actual corporatization of our health-care system by large companies from outside the province."

May said the Canada Health Act was specifically brought in to eliminate for-profit health care. But that law, she added, is being eroded by governments in New Brunswick and Ontario. She questioned the efficiency of a two-tier health-care network, adding that any for-profit system "is always going to be less efficient and more expensive" than a single-payer one.

"Because guess what? You have to make a profit," she said. "Money gets taken out of the health-care system to make that profit."

Canada, she said, is uniquely vulnerable compared with other universal, single-payer health-care systems in the world because of its trade deals with the United States.

"If we create a for-profit health-care sector, we will face trade challenges," May said. "We cannot allow an inch of privatization to undermine our single-payer, universal public health-care system."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.

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