Post Election 2021: Healthcare Edition

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Post Election 2021: Healthcare Edition

Prime Minister Trudeau faced significant scrutiny for calling an election that many viewed as unnecessary during a global pandemic. Despite this sentiment, voters have re-elected him and given him a fresh mandate to continue with his current agenda. Given the realities of the ongoing pandemic, healthcare policy was top of mind throughout the election, and all three parties rolled out plans with a strong focus on improving healthcare in Canada.

Big spending commitments:

The pandemic exposed numerous problems in Canada’s healthcare sector – from underfunded long-term care homes and chronic staff shortages to limited ICU capacity and growing queues for diagnostic services – and the newly elected Liberals have committed to addressing some of these with substantial investments. From an emergency preparedness perspective, the pandemic also exposed Canada’s inability to source domestic supplies of PPE, vaccines and other critical point of care equipment.

In short, Prime Minister Trudeau’s re-election means there will be billions of dollars injected into Canada’s healthcare system over the coming years if campaign commitments are honoured. While provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the management, organization and delivery of healthcare services for their residents, the federal government is responsible for setting policies around national standards for the healthcare system and providing funding to support provincial and territorial health care services. The federal government also has the power to put conditions on the funding they provide to the provinces, which is always a source of conflict in federal-provincial relations. At this early stage, It is unclear what conditions may be imposed.

Four key pillars

In light of the pending investments by the Trudeau government, it is worth reviewing what was promised. The Liberal’s healthcare platform and proposed spending includes 4 key pillars: mandatory vaccines, investments to reduce wait times for surgeries, procedures and diagnostics, significant investments in the long-term care sector and a new Canada Mental Health Transfer.

Vaccine credentials

The Trudeau government has committed to a federal vaccine passport for domestic and international travel. They have also committed to launching a $1 billion COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Fund to support provinces and territories who implement a requirement for proof of vaccine credentials in their jurisdiction for non-essential businesses and public spaces. 

For businesses and organizations that choose to mandate vaccines, Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to table legislation ensuring that every business and organization that decides to require proof of vaccination from employees and customers can do so without fear of a legal challenge. 

Addressing waitlists

Canadians face significant wait times and waitlists, a problem exacerbated by pandemic-related delays of most non-essential procedures. The Liberal health care platform committed to investing $6 billion to support the elimination of waitlists across Canada, and the federal government has promised to work closely with the provinces and territories to make sure they can deliver the care outcomes that Canadians need. It is unclear at this stage what conditions, if any, the feds will put on this funding.

Long-term care

The area of the healthcare system that was hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic was the long-term care sector. The pandemic exposed numerous flaws in the system that led to countless tragic deaths and forced governments to face the fact that new investment in the long-term care sector is essential. The Liberals have committed $9 billion over 5 years to support safer conditions for seniors and improved wages and working conditions for personal support workers. They will develop a Safe Long-Term Care Act to prevent situations like this from happening again, raise wages for personal support workers, including a guaranteed minimum wage of at least $25 per hour and train up to 50,000 new personal support workers. These are steps intended to improve the quality and availability of long-term care homes and beds in Canada. They have yet to outline how this funding will be deployed, but we will be watching closely for details. 

Canada Mental Health Transfer

Finally, Trudeau will establish a new federal transfer to provinces and territories: the Canada Mental Health Transfer. The Canada Mental Health Transfer will assist jurisdictions to expand the delivery of high quality, accessible, and free mental health services. The initial investment will be $4.5 billion over 5 years. Including Canada’s existing bilateral agreement on mental health services that was signed in 2017, federal support for mental health services will reach $2.5 billion per year by 2025-26. 

Our takeaway…

There is little doubt that the pandemic has exposed serious cracks in our healthcare system; it remains to be seen whether the promises made during the campaign will make a difference should the new Liberal government follow through.  What is clear, however, is that there will be billions of new dollars injected into the system over the coming years and there will undoubtedly be a role for the private sector to play. 

Carys Baker is a Toronto-based Consultant with a focus on the healthcare and long-term care sectors. Bliss Baker is the Chairman and founder of Cumberland Strategies and has represented a range of large Canadian and multinational companies in the healthcare space.

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