Thomas Mulcair used his unprecedented speech before the CMA’s General Council (GC) to promise that an NDP government would use money from any federal surplus to help limit cuts to health care funding.
The Aug. 20 address marked the first time in the CMA’s 147 years that the leader of the official opposition has been invited to address GC. Mulcair raised numerous issues during his 25-minute speech, including controversial federal government moves to limit health care funding for refugees and cut support for veterans.
Mulcair, who described the CMA as a body that helps set the course for health care in Canada, said the existing health care system faces “dramatic” challenges because of demographic and other issues. He said it will be harder to meet these challenges because of major federal funding cuts that are slated for 2016.
“Money can’t solve all problems, but without money we can’t solve any of them,” he said. Mulcair also argued that spending cuts would be particularly inappropriate because of the scale of demographic challenges Canada faces due to its aging population.
“Mr. Harper, it’s time to keep your word and protect Canadian health care,” he said.
Referring to demographic change and the CMA’s call for a national seniors care strategy, Mulcair noted that the NDP is currently the only federal party to have adopted a national strategy on aging and palliative care.
Mulcair was particularly critical of a federal decision to cut health funding for refugees, describing the move as “cruel and heartless.”
He also said the country’s veterans deserve better treatment, and promised to reopen nine offices that provide services to veterans if the NDP forms the next government. “They fought for us,” he said. “It’s time we fought for them.”
Mulcair, who attended elementary school with CMA President Louis Hugo Francescutti, said Canada has made huge advances since it adopted universal health care in the 1960s and is now entering a new era for its medicare system.
“In the last century we made that [universal care] a reality,” he concluded. “Now we have to safeguard it.”