Canadian Medical Association

2023 At the forefront of change

For too long, health workers have made a difference despite the system they’re part of.

Despite chronic staff shortages. Despite a growing administrative burden. Despite persistent racism in care.
The Canadian Medical Association believes in a better future, and we’re laser-focused on advocacy at a national level to make that happen.

125 Meetings with partners and policy-makers
76 Speaking engagements across Canada
250 Interviews with national media

We’re getting results

This year, the federal government announced the highest increase in health funding in decades.

Average annual increase (inflation adjusted); 2000: $6.6B, 2003: $9.7B, 2004: $12.3B, 2017: $9.4B, 2023: $16B
Health reform can't wait. Access matters. Learn about the CMA's calls for change at

In July, the CMA released new targets to turn that funding into meaningful change and stressed the urgent need for action across the country. (Premiers landing in Winnipeg for their summer meeting received a helpful reminder care of digital billboards, see "Health Care Can't Wait," at the airport.)

After months of advocacy for increased physician mobility, government accountability and national standards for data sharing, in October, federal, provincial and territorial health ministers committed to pan-Canadian mobility for physicians within 12 months and reaffirmed their commitment to shared priorities to support Canada's health workforce.

The same month, the CMA convened more than 40 health organizations in Ottawa to advance national workforce planning.

CMA President Dr. Kathleen Ross on Parliament Hill.

87% of Canadians who agree a long-term plan for the health workforce is needed to ensure they can receive the right care at the right time, no matter where they live. – Ipsos/CMA survey, September 2023

“Currently, we have six and a half million Canadians without access to primary care. That's not success.” – Dr. Kathleen Ross, CMA president

What success looks like must be shaped by the people who know the health system best — the people who work in it and the people who use it.

“As patients, health care should be by us, for us and about us, because without us - what is health care?” 
– Toni Leamon, CMA Patient Voice

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What health care should be

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At the CMA Health Summit in August, more than 700 physicians, medical learners, advocates and patients came together both in Ottawa and online to explore What Health Care Should Be, and what it will take to get there.

Keynotes and panellists included Drs. Tara Kiran, Hasan Sheikh and Bonnie Henry, health misinformation debunker Timothy Caulfield and federal Health Minister Mark Holland.

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Climate and health

A session on building more sustainable health care was painfully timely, as wildfires engulfed millions of hectares across the country.

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The host and participants of a panel on net-zero, climate-resilient health care at the CMA Health Summit. From left to right: host Adrian Harewood, the Hon. Catherine McKenna, Dr. Courtney Howard, Dr. Stephan Williams, Dr. Melissa Lem and Dr. Ojistoh Horn.

A panel of physicians passionate about a greener future underlined the important role the profession can play — including reducing the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the health system itself, which contributes more to Canada’s carbon footprint than the aviation industry.

The CMA is calling for a national secretariat to facilitate and coordinate climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems. We joined colleagues from around the world at the first day dedicated to climate and health at COP28 in December. And we’re leading by example by working toward a net-zero investment portfolio by 2050.

The path to reconciliation

This year, the CMA has also taken significant steps to advance reconciliation in health care — guided by Indigenous Peoples.

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Fireside Chats on Indigenous Health brought together First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders and knowledge-keepers for candid discussions on systemic racism, cultural safety and rebuilding trust in care.

The way forward is articulated by the CMA’s new Indigenous health goal, developed by an Indigenous Guiding Circle that includes First Nations, Inuit and Métis health professionals, patients, leaders, elders and knowledge keepers.

Photo with Indigenous mother and child.
“Indigenous voices have too often been devalued or dismissed entirely. Ultimately, this goal is about Indigenous-led reform, with Indigenous people accessing health care that they can trust in a system that sees them thrive.” – Dr. Paula Cashin, member of the CMA Board of Directors and Indigenous Guiding Circle
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Trust starts with truth. In June, the CMA announced work toward a formal apology, as the national voice of the medical profession, for harms to Indigenous Peoples.

Public and Private health care

The CMA’s guiding principle is that every Canadian deserves equal access to quality, timely health care regardless of the ability to pay for medically necessary services.

Canada has long had a mix of public and private health services. But as governments grapple with widening gaps in care some are increasing the role of the private sector.

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To educate and engage Canadians, the CMA has been leading national consultations on this issue through 2023 and will continue into 2024. These include focused dialogues with physicians and patients across the country, as well as public town halls hosted by The Globe and Mail in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax. What we hear will inform our policy and advocacy.

Physician wellness

Physicians in Canada overwhelmingly choose the public health system. But the sacrifice that’s become a norm across care environments is driving some professionals to private practice, and others out of the sector entirely.

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Reducing the administrative burden in medicine, which eats up 18.5 million physician hours a year, is one important fix. To spur solutions, the CMA, MD Financial Management and Scotiabank have launched a $10 million Healthcare Unburdened Grant.

Fundamental changes must also be made, on the job and in the larger culture of medicine, to support physicians’ physical, psychological and cultural safety.

“We can’t just keep training more, recruiting more and dumping more people in the top of our bucket if there’s a steady drain from exhaustion, burnout and moral distress at the bottom.” – CMA President Dr. Kathleen Ross, CCPH

At the seventh Canadian Conference on Physician Health, presented by the CMA and the Quebec Physicians’ Health Program, speakers discussed peer supports, organizational programs and system-level initiatives.

Dr. Kathleen Ross at the Canadian Conference on Physician Health

New wellness initiatives funded by the CMA, MD Financial and Scotiabank have also been launched this year by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Medical Society of Prince Edward Island. The CMA’s Annual Symposium of Physician Leaders of Quebec challenged participants to continue disrupting health care, to improve the profession and the system.

As Dr. Lafontaine wrote in a recent post on X (formerly Twitter): “Change is slow, until it isn’t.” The CMA’s advocacy is making a difference: to patients, to the health system — to the physicians who already make a difference every day.

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