Media release: RNAO applauds federal Liberal/NDP partnership to improve health and wellbeing of Canadians
Toronto, March 23, 2022. A federal pledge to put aside partisan differences and work together for the benefit of Canadians is drawing praise from the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).
This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh reached a historic agreement that would see the NDP support the minority Liberal government on caucus votes in exchange for movement on a number of NDP policy priorities, most notably a national dental care plan and progress on a national pharmacare plan.
“We have witnessed how politics can easily divide people. Canada is at an important crossroads in its history and this agreement represents a way forward to improve the health and wellbeing of Canadians. While there are many details still to be worked out, this is something that we should champion,” says RNAO’s CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun, adding that “people expect their elected representatives to collaborate and implement healthy public policies.”
RNAO says a three-year plan to provide dental care is especially welcome and is a longstanding recommendation of the association. “Oral care is health care. Too many Canadians do not have access to dental coverage and this agreement paves the way to help millions of people who have been denied or do not have access to dental care, simply because they don’t have the means to pay for it,” says Grinspun.
Nurses are also pleased to see a commitment on progress towards a national pharmacare program. The country’s Medicare system is one of the country’s greatest achievements as championed by Tommy Douglas. However, 30 per cent of the country’s total health expenditures remain excluded from coverage. “Access to medicine is a human right. Every developed country around the world with universal health-care coverage includes pharmacare. No Canadian, especially in these precarious economic times, should have to choose between getting a prescription filled and putting food on the table or paying the rent,” says Grinspun. “We urge both parties to ensure such a plan is fulsome so it meets the needs of Canadians who have to make choices they shouldn’t have to make.”
In addition to expanding Medicare, RNAO is heartened by the parties’ commitment to table a Safe Long-Term Care Act and to work with the provinces and territories to deliver better health outcomes for Canadians. Although the agreement is short on specifics, the NDP and Liberals say this would include more primary care nurses and physicians, mental health support, and investments to support older Canadians who wish to remain in their homes longer.
RNAO’s President Morgan Hoffarth says “nurses will take comfort in this commitment because COVID-19 has taken a tremendous toll on nurses right across the country. Ontario was already facing a deficit of 22,000 registered nurses before the pandemic. That led to critical shortages two years later and compromised care,” adds Hoffarth who says “focused attention and collaboration among provincial, territorial and federal governments is needed to solve the health human resource crisis.”
RNAO is also pleased the agreement between the NDP and the governing Liberals addresses critical social and environmental determinants of health. The extension of the Rapid Housing Initiative and the promise of significant investments in Indigenous housing are necessary responses to a housing crisis that affects urban, rural and remote communities across the country. “Increasing investments in affordable housing is essential. Housing is a fundamental determinant of health,” says Hoffarth. “We need to address the reality that across the country, more than 250,000 people have no place to call home and that puts them at great risk of illness and disease,” Hoffarth adds.
Responding effectively to the global climate emergency is also of great urgency and will require the parties to ensure that the benefits and burdens of greenhouse gas reduction measures fall equitably across Canadian society.
RNAO says the agreement raises expectations among Canadians that politicians can set aside their differences and work across party lines. “We applaud the prime minister and the leader of the NDP for coming together and demonstrating the courage and leadership this country needs. We urge the Liberal and NDP not to let this great opportunity for Canada slip away,” adds Hoffarth.
The agreement means the current Liberal minority government would remain in power until the next federal election set for 2025.